The HC-130 is an extended-range, combat rescue version of the C-130 transport aircraft. Capable of independent employment in the no-to-low threat environment. Its primary mission is to provide air refueling for rescue helicopters. The HC-130 can perform extended searches in a permissive environment and has the capability to airdrop pararescuemen and survival equipment to isolated survivors when a delay in the arrival of a recovery vehicle is anticipated. Flights to air refueling areas or drop zones are accomplished at tactical low altitude to avoid threats. NVG-assisted, low-altitude air refueling and other operations in a low-threat environment are performed by specially trained crews. The crew can perform airborne mission commander (AMC) duties in a no-to-low threat environment when threat conditions permit.
The US Coast Guard is one of the largest operators of the surveillance/patrol version of the HC-130 Hercules transport. While equipped especially for long-range surveillance, the HC-130 can be converted quickly for use as a cargo and/or personnel transport, including the handling of oversized equipment. As the HC-130 is the Coast Guard's long-range surveillance (LRS) aviation platform, the HC-130 aircraft is tasked to perform the service's most demanding missions. The current HC-130H crews perform search and rescue, law enforcement (fisheries/drug interdiction), international ice patrol, and environmental response duties.
In 1959 the Coast Guard obtained its first Lockheed HC-130 Hercules. Large, rugged, and extremely reliable, this aircraft could cruise on two of its four engines thereby greatly extending its range. The Hercules flies with the Coast Guard as the HC-130B, performing air-sea rescue. The maximum speed is 290 knots (at high altitude), with a low-altitude cruise speed of 210 to 250 knots. Range, depending upon internal fuel tank configuration, is 3,000 to 4,500NM (no wind).
The HC-130 Long Range Search Aircraft (LRS) is a component of the the Integrated Deepwater System. As a part of the Coast Guard's fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget process, the Department of Homeland Security approved a revised Implementation Plan. It provides improved fixed-wing aircraft long-range surveillance to increase MDA and reduce maritime patrol aircraft shortfalls in operating hours; organic Coast Guard air transport will be able to deploy Maritime Safety and Security Teams and National Strike Force teams faster for response with their equipment. The revised Deepwater Implementation Plan updates the original plan by modifying the original assets that would have been delivered by the Deepwater project to incorporate improved post-9/11 capabilities; retaining, upgrading, and converting aviation legacy assets (C-130s, H-60s, H-65s) as part of the Deepwater Program's final asset mix.
Aviation upgrades include the modernization of 16 HC-130H long range search aircraft, and the integration of mission systems on board six new HC-130Js. Modernization of the H-models, coupled with the new systems and capabilities of the Js, will improve the mission reach and interoperability of Coast Guard maritime patrol. On the HC-130Hs the Coast Guard is installing new displays that will present flight instruments and other information in a clean, digital format. Digital moving map technology is a huge improvement in situational awareness for the crew. And a GPS landing approach technology will allow the crews to shoot instrumented landing approaches with far greater accuracy and safety.
The Coast Guard's legacy C-130 fleet is equipped with two types of surface search radars, including the AN/APS-137, a very powerful emitter that was developed by the U.S. Navy for submarine hunting aboard that service's P-3 aircraft. Additionally, the 1500-series C-130s were equipped with the AN/APS-135 side-looking airborne radar (SLAR). The SLAR is capable of looking out 15 miles on either side of the aircraft, cutting a 30-mile swath to detect surface anomalies (such as icebergs, on International Ice Patrol missions).
The Coast Guard's airborne radar surface search concept of operations teamed the APS-137 radar with the SLAR to deliver the full range capability -wide area coverage with the SLAR and high-resolution from the APS-137. However, the service is retiring its 1500-series aircraft, between 2008 and 2009. Meanwhile, the APS-137 radars are aging and becoming more challenging to maintain. These circumstances have led to requirements for more robust and state-of-the-market replacement radars.
So the Coast Guard is putting in the Selex 7500 Sea Spray radar. The Selex is a multi-mission, synthetic aperture radar as capable in the surface search mode as the SLAR and APS-137, and also capable of performing in air-to-air and weather radar modes, all in one system. The beauty of it is that the Selex system is not nearly as user dependent: the average user can still get the full capability, compared with the APS-137, which required great skill to use.
The six new HC-130Js are equipped with EL/M 2022A(V)3 maritime surface search radar, and a nose-mounted AN/APN-241 color weather & navigation radar.
FY06 President's Budget Request included funds for upgrades to and replacement of C-130H Avionics, MILSATCOM, weather radar, and search radar. The LRS solution includes both new C-130Js that are currently unmissionized and legacy HC- 130Hs. The Hs require upgrades to ensure their continued performance in the Deepwater system until they are finally retired in decades to come.
The new HC-130J aircraft will provide long-range air coverage over the entire Coast Guard area of responsibility and increase the overall MDA/Common Operational Picture. The primary role of these aircraft will be to meet the long range maritime patrol requirements in the vast Pacific Ocean areas that cannot be accomplished by the medium range surveillance (MRS) CASA aircraft. The LRS will additionally provide heavy Air Transport for Maritime Safety & Security Teams (MSSTs), Port Security Units (PSUs), and the National Strike Force (NSF). The LRS will not only be Deepwater interoperable, but DHS and DoD Interoperable including MILSATCOM and local responder-interoperable radio communications.
The LRS will now be fully integrated with the National Distress Response Modernization Program, known as RESCUE 21, which will provide the port commanders with seamless data sharing, including the Automated Identification System (AIS). Intelligence-Information Collection and Sharing for Deepwater will be enhanced as the LRS will receive enhanced radar and optical sensors and will share a common C4ISR pallet with the MRS which will provide for integrated command and control and make the LRS a potential airborne command center. The LRS will receive Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Detection and Defense (CBR D&D) capabilities that will allow for insertion of specialized teams (e.g., the National Strike Force) into potential "hot" areas.
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