The 40K-Transporter Loader is the principal military loader used for loading / offloading military aircraft, with a capacity of 5 x 463L pallets with a gross weight of 40,000 pounds. An airlift system is only as capable as the materials handling equipment supporting it. The backbone of the current MHE fleet is the 40K [40,000-pound] loader. It is increasingly unreliable due to age and condition. The 1995 inventory filled only 77 percent of that required to meet defense plans. In addition to the 40K loader wide-body elevator loaders are necessary for reaching the high cargo floors on commercial wide-body cargo aircraft and our KC-10s. The current inventory of WBELs is limited. The new 60K loader is our second highest air mobility acquisition priority. It is slated to replace the 40K loader and many of the WBELs.
The K-loaders are normally used in conjunction with loaded 463L system military pallets and aircraft rail systems. The 40K had roller conveyers on the deck. However, the floor is not powered: pallets or other cargo must be pushed or winched between the loader and aircraft decks. The 40K does not have side-transfer capability. A one-man cab is located at the left front corner of the deck of the 40K-Transporter Loader. Two hydraulically operating folding links raise and lower the deck and provide fore-and-aft tilt. Four small hydraulic cylinders roll the deck from side-to-side.
The 40K Loader is capable of lifting as many as 40,000 pounds on five 463L pallets to a maximum height of 156 in. This height is less than that of a wide body aircraft such as the B-747 and KC-10. A few "Extender platforms" are located at selected bases that can bridge the height gap between the Max height of the 40K and the floor height of the aircraft (approximately four feet). This extender is used as a primary or alternate method of loading or unloading wide-body aircraft. The extender is used as an elevator only and is not used to transport cargo (i.e. the 40K will not be moved if it is equipped with an extender and has cargo on it). When not in use, it doubles as a highline dock. The extender is locked into the bed of the 40K loader, enabling it to reach the main deck of wide-body aircraft. It is intended for handling loaded 108- x 88-inch pallets, up to a five-pallet train and can also be used to load rolling stock. The extender weighs approximately 10,000 pounds, thereby, decreasing the capability of the 40K loader by the same. This limits the capacity to 30,000 pounds. The extender is air-transportable and the 60-inch height enables the loader to reach a maximum height of 216 inches.
The Air Force approach to procuring additional MHE highlights the problem of acquiring basic transportation infrastructure in a service-centered procurement process. The 40K loader has been in use since 1965. By 1996 the average 40K loader was 23 years old; the original life span was predicted to be eight to ten years. The fleet was nearly unsupportable due to constant maintenance problems, and intense use in the early 1990s led to metal fatigue and frame cracks. By 1996 they were reportedly breaking down an average of every 20 hours of usage. A replacement strategy for the aging fleet of 60,000-pound capable aircraft loaders was identified by the Military Airlift Command (MAC) in mid-1980s. The first of 318 new 60K loaders arrived at their destination in 1996. This delay was influenced by the inability of MAC and AMC to elevate the priority of these systems until it was almost too late.
With the 60K loaders not yet fully fielded, a great deal of reliance was still placed on the aging 40,000 pound (40K) loaders to perform the Air Force's cargo airlift support mission. In addition, the 25,000 pound (25K) loaders were being modernized in order to lengthen their service life into the next century.
During FY98, WR-ALC was in the fifth year of a ten-year Contract, Number F09603-94-D-0368, for the depot overhaul of 25K and 40K loaders with ATAP, Inc., Eastaboga, Alabama. Depot overhaul consisted of disassembly, inspection, cleaning, repair and/or replacement of parts and components, along with the reassembly and testing of all items and accessories which made up the vehicle. It resulted in increased reliability and extended the life of the loaders by seven years. Each loader was priced individually by fiscal year, with overhaul prices ranging from $73,000 to $132,000, depending on the unit's condition, age, overhaul year, and related factors. The types of loaders covered in the contract included the following: 25K Types A/S32H-5 and A/S32H-5A; 40K Types A/S32H-6 and A/S32H-6A. ATAP, Inc. has been the depot level loader overhaul contractor for WR-ALC since 1987 and had been highly regarded, receiving the WR-ALC Small Business Contractor of the Year designation in 1992, 1994, and 1995.
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