Life’s certainties: death, taxes and C-130s

A media roundtable in the Pentagon yesterday about the C-130 lasted an hour, but there was so much information we could have used two or three hours. Not bad for a 55-year-old production line!

For the purposes of storytelling, I will greatly simplify the various activities into three major threads.



LM’s Cool “J”

The US Air Force has bought 89 C-130Js and it is now approved to buy at least another 83. Negotiations for a multi-year procurement contract began last week with Lockheed Martin.

The C-130J is also a leading contender to replace the 115-aircraft HC/MC-130 fleet. An acquisition strategy is being developed for approval in September 2009. A mixed fleet of C-130Js and rewinged C-130Es, possibly via Snow Aviation, is under consideration. Of course, Lockheed already has a contract to supply 14 modified KC-130J tankers to replace the oldest HC-130s, but this does not oblige the USAF to purchase an all J fleet.

Again, that’s not a bad outlook for the J considering it spent the first decade in development and production as the black sheep of the USAF acquisition community.

Future Shock

Two issues will force the USAF to think beyond the C-130.

  1. After 2015, the Army’s manned ground vehicles for the Future Combat System could outgrow the C-130 box size.
  2. After 2020, the USAF must start replacing the 221-aircraft C-130H fleet. This is called the Joint Future Theater Lift (JFTL) — formerly AJACS and AMC-X.

A whole range of options are being considered. One is a competition between the Airbus A400M and the Boeing C-17B for the FCS requirement in 2015. Another option is an all new development program, with the Lockheed Skunk Works/Aurora Flight Sciences All Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) perhaps the model.

The Gloria Gaynor Fleet: They Will Survive



The Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) will standardize and modernize the cockpits for 141 C-130H2/H2.5s and 80 C-130H3s. All 221 will also receive new center wing boxes. Both programs should enter production within four or five years.

The fate of the cockpit upgrade for 129 special mission C-130s, which include gunships, hurricane hunters, etc., is still to be determined. It requires a special version of the AMP suite that was cancelled two years ago. The upgrade requirement still exists, so the USAF will try to obtain funding in the next budgeting cycle.

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6 Responses to Life’s certainties: death, taxes and C-130s

  1. Matthew G. Saroff 27 August, 2008 at 3:39 pm #

    I worked on the Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle for the Future Combat System until December 2006, and I can say that that the FCS manned ground vehicles already are too big for the C-130s.

    In order to fly them on a C-130, you basically have to strip them of everything but propulsion, and fly 3 C-130s for each 2 FCS-MGVs, and then have some sort of material handling equipment (crane) to put things on like turret bits, self protection systems, external fuel tanks, etc.

  2. EG 27 August, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    A400M
    With LM “integrating” the systems!

  3. Stephen Trimble 27 August, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    This seems to be one of the most popular theories.

  4. Christopher Dye 28 August, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    It is easy to forget after nearly 20 years, but the C-17 was originally designed during the Cold War to replace the 130 as a short/medium range intra-theater transport, particularly in Cold War Europe, NOT as the so-called global transport Boeng and the AF call it today. Indeed, Boeing and the AF had to add a fuel tank below the wing box to give the 17 anything like the intercontinental range they now claim for it.

    The 17′s primary orginal purpose was to give NATO so-called “deep penetration” capability within Europe; ie the capacity to strike far behind Warsaw Pact’s lines with significant ground forces. Hence the C-17′s extremely wide cargo box and very heavy lift capability, which meant then that it could carry all of the Army’s combat vehicles, including the M-1 tank. I remember that Alexander Haige, when he was NATO commander, specifically warned the Warsaw Pact that if they started a war, NATO would not limit itself to defense but would take the offense in this manner.

    Whether the AF replaces the 130 with the 17 will depend mainly (in strictly military as opposed to political terms) on whether it needs its unique fuselage width and heavy lifting capabilites for intra-theater transport. Obviously, no such need exists on a regular or high-priority basis in the Iraq and Afgan wars. However, it may well soon be urgently needed in Europe because Russia is now challenging us, NATO, and the EU in central Europe, particularly in the areas it refers to as its “near abroad.” I think we must be alert to see the very real possibility that Russia’s attack on Georgia is not an isolated incident justified by Georgia’s stupid attack on South Assetia, but part of a long-range strategy to re-establish Russian dominance, or at least powerful influence, throughout the “near abroad,” INCLUDING NATO countries such as Poland and the Baltic States. Indeed, President Medvedev said recently Russia is not scared of a new “Cold War.” Viewed in this light, NATO will need to expand it logistic system well into its eastern-most members and develop the ability to move heavy equipment quickly throughout its greatly expanded area, particularly to the east. For these tasks, the C-17B may be perfect.

    Thus, one scenario for replacement of the 130 is that NATO would field both the 17 and the A400M, the former for the really heavy stuff and the latter for everything else (although the unkillable 130 will no boubt also soldier on in Europe and elsewhere in one form or another forever). I think it is unlikelly that the AF will get the funds to build an all-new medium lift transport given the fact that there are no funds and the Europeans are close to fielding an acceptable substitute in A400M.

  5. Stephen Trimble 28 August, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    Great insight. I have nothing that suggests you’re off the mark, and I think you’re probably onto something in terms of the response to the Russian invasion. I’m sure we’ll start seeing references start popping up to it in DOD and industry briefing charts, probably with the term “Soviet Union” crossed out from when the slide was last used in 1989.

    This is a good opportunity to plug my blog next week. I’m off to Brazil on a non-defense work trip, but I’m going to run a series of articles about the Russian invasion of Georgia. It will be told from the Russian perspective, by Flight’s Moscow-based correspondent. It won’t jump into some of the issues you’re talking about, but I think it will give everyone a good baseline for what happened during the war.

  6. deputado federal 1 September, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    Very nice blog man… could i use your text in my blog ?deputado federal

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