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C-130J tailor-made for mission over Afghanistan

by Capt. Tracy Bunko
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/14/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- A 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J Hercules aircrew operating out of Southwest Asia dropped leaflets over Afghanistan encouraging its citizens to reject violence and embrace their government as part of an integrated operation with NATO's International Security Assistance Force March 6.

The mission came after news reports of violence against ISAF troops including two bombings last week.

It was the crew's first leaflet drops since their arrival in theater Feb. 8 and a first for the active-duty C-130J model.

"This airdrop is just one example of the many combat capabilities the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing brings to the fight," said Lt. Col. Daniel Tulley, the 746th EAS commander. "Like everything here at the 379th it was a true total force team effort."

The C-130J is the newest Hercules model and benefits from many design improvements that, according to the colonel, contributed to the success of the mission and better protected the aircrew.

"Loadmasters were able to remain in Kevlar-protected areas of the cargo compartment during the airdrops, and the airplane could immediately accelerate and egress the target area; all significant improvements over previous versions," he said.

This protection and airdropping the leaflets from the aircraft ramp versus the conventional way through the paratroop door, also allowed the loadmaster's to scan for ground threats while remaining in the Kevlar-enforced positions, said Chief Master Sgt William Sindle, a loadmaster on the mission.

The airdrops also showcased other design aspects of the aircraft uniquely suited for this type of mission and environment.

"Another example is the increased accuracy of the planes navigation and mapping systems," said Maj. Joel Stephens, the 746th EAS chief of tactics. "This enabled the crew to successfully pinpoint the multiple air release points and targets of the leaflets."

The aircraft is also more powerful than previous versions and requires only four crewmembers instead of six. This translates to greater range and speed as well as improved climb performance. This capability means aircrews are able to operate more safely in mountainous terrain, reduce the time spent in harm's way, and decrease the number of Airmen exposed to enemy fire, Major Stephens said.

"One improvement exploited during this mission is the cargo ramp and door, capable of opening and closing at speeds of up to 250 knots," he said. "The crew was able to fly at higher airspeeds and avoid slowing down just to open and close the ramp and door."

"Achieving the (Combined Air and Space Operations Center's) desired effects on the ground in Afghanistan is a direct result of coordination and integration within this wing," Colonel Tulley said. "The recapitalized C-130J is proving itself exceptionally capable, reliable and flexible, exactly what we need given the diverse missions we fly from this location every day!"

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