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Raiders' new KC-130 J brings changes to aviation

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2004924183451
Story by Sgt. Cecilia Sequeira

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Sept. 24, 2004) -- Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, "The Raiders," accepted Miramar's first KC-130 J aircraft from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Aerospace Monday.

The technologically advanced J model "marks the beginning of a transition for the Raiders into a new era of automated aviation," said Raiders commanding officer Lt. Col. Albert T. Conord.

VMGR-352 isn't the only squadron making the change. Eventually, all active duty Marine squadrons will make the change to the J models. Reservists will use the KC-130 T models.

Originally, the Air Force was going to train the Marine Corps on the new model, but the Marine Corps leaped ahead of them in training. "That makes us the tip of the spear. We can't look back and learn from others' mistakes. We have to make our own," said VMGR-352 loadmaster Staff Sgt. Lee A. Sweaney. The Air Force is now scheduled to take over training for the Marine Corps in spring of 2006.

For the aircrew, it won't be just a matter of getting accustomed to a new aircraft. Pilots, loadmasters and crew chiefs will have to go to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, for two to three months of classroom and simulator training. After the schooling, the aircrew will then need another three months of practice flying the J model before they are considered proficient.

So much training is necessary because the J model is very different from its older counterparts. Raiders KC-130 J instructor pilot, Capt. Jason W. Julian, says the J model has more advanced defense systems that provide better protection against enemy missile systems.

The navigation capabilities of the aircraft replace the need for Marine Corps enlisted KC-130 navigators, whom are only needed on remaining old aircrafts, until J models take over completely.

The new six-bladed propellers and engines have more thrust and use less fuel. The aircraft will be able to travel faster, farther and carry more than its predecessors.

Raiders crew chief Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. England said, sometimes with the old models it is difficult to locate problem. "If something is wrong on the new aircraft, it jumps out at you," he said.

"We are fully night vision compatible. The R and F models only had white lighting. (If you are wearing NVG's) and you are trying to look out and you have white lights on, it glares out the windows," said Sweaney.

However, the sacrifice in manpower is not completely replaced by the increase in technology. "As with any transition, it is full of obstacles and challenges that the Marines are going to have to overcome. Some of those challenges are the increased workload on the (remaining) aircrew and an increased training requirement for them," said Julian.

"The problems the aircraft has with computer technology are new for us. It has software glitches that create a new challenge for us," said England. "The intent was to have the aircraft computer take the place of extra people. Now, the pilots work harder because they don't have the navigators for mission planning," he said.

With all the upcoming training and the loss of the navigators, some crew may not welcome the change. "There is a lot of negativity associated with change. People have spent their entire career becoming subject matter experts on a plane. Then you come in and say, 'You have to start all over on a new airplane.' That is tough," added Julian.

After all crewmembers are trained and become accustomed to the aircraft, the J model will still demand more time. "Even with the proficiency increase, overall, KC-130 J crews, will have more tasking. It is not unusual for pilots to spend an entire day prior to a mission in the mission planning room. The during-flight workload is also higher for all crew," said Julian.

"The Marines are going to adapt and make this plane successful. They will find ways to overcome any shortcomings," Julian added.

Eleven additional KC-130 J models will replace the rest of the old Raiders' F and R models by late 2007.


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