When the Douglas DC-3 was still in the Israeli air force’s (IAF) service some 15 years ago, all the squadrons had big slogans in every hangar saying: “The only substitute for the DC-3 is a DC-3.”
The DC-3 is resting from a long service in the IAF’s museum, but the force, so it seems, has another “irreplaceable” aircraft.
No slogans are displayed this time, but it is obvious that the only replacement for the IAF’s Lockheed Martin C-130 is another C-130.
The first C-130Js will be supplied to the IAF in the coming years, but in the meantime, efforts are made all the time to keep the current fleet flying with full capabilities.
The IAF’s C-130Es are too old and beaten, but the Hs – also very “mature” platforms – are now getting all the attention.
Main wing box replacement, new wiring and other upgrades are aimed at allowing these fine aircraft to fly until the budget allows to replace the whole fleet with the Js.
And the need that is not exclusive to the IAF has resulted in a very advanced package that was unveiled just before the Paris Air Show.
This package, dubbed the C-Suite Tactical, has been developed by Elbit Systems. It is the most comprehensive upgrade package for the cockpit of the Lockheed Martin C-130H.
According to the Israeli company, the C-Suite Tactical is a flexible, modular solution created to effectively perform under the harsh and demanding conditions created by low-altitude tactical environments.
The system provides accurate, real-time information projected on the Head-Up, Head-Down or Helmet-Mounted display, enabling a safer and more precise mission execution, as well as greater situational awareness.
Elbit says that the C-Suite Tactical applications are a seamless integration of complex sensors and systems suited specifically to the C-130 flight deck avionics.
The C-Suite Mission Safety Equipment Package includes: a head-up display (HUD) with video input capabilities; a helmet-mounted display (HMD) with video input and line-of-sight capabilities (LOS); height above terrain (HAT); terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS); synthetic vision system (SVS); enhanced vision system (EVS); and a terrain following/terrain avoidance system (TF/TA).
According to Gil Russo, a senior director at Elbit Systems’ aerospace division, the TF/TA feature enables accurate low-level flight in any condition.
He said that the TF/TA application provides clear, distinct and unambiguous flight guidance to maintain an accurate low-level flight pattern in day, night and all-weather conditions.
TF/TA is based on a digital terrain elevation database (DTED) fused with a real-time ground mapping radar, designed to operate within the aircraft’s performance envelope.
The TF/TA ensures safer operation over all types of terrain, including: high mountains, rolling hills, level terrain and man-made obstacles.
The TF/TA application is based on a collaboration between Elbit Systems and Northrop Grumman, and promotes an integrated solution that combines the AN/APN-241 TF radar with Elbit Systems’ TF/TA application.
Another feature of the suite is the SVS, which provides flight crews with a clear view of their environment when out of sight, enabling a variety of new mission capabilities.
The SVS displays a clear and intuitive 3D synthetic image of the external environment on primary flight display (PFD), HUD or the HMD.
The SVS image is overlaid with the onscreen graphic flight plan, runways, and man-made obstacles, developed with critical flight data.
Russo presented another feature – the enhanced vision system (EVS), which provides clear vision of the terrain through night and low-visibility conditions.
EVS is a highly sensitive, wide-spectrum infrared (IR) camera that provides real-time video images of the flight terrain on PFD, HUD or the HMD.
EVS fuses both the near- and medium-IR spectrum to provide clear images through dark night and harsh weather conditions, therefore enabling low-altitude manoeuvrability, as well as precision approaches and safe landing in reduced visibility.