Hark, the Fat Herc!

I’ve been waiting for nearly a year to use that headline.

It was at the Air Force Association convention last year that I first asked Lockheed Martin the question: Will you study widening the C-130? I got a “no comment” back then. Finally, one week before the AFA convention this year, the secret is finally out. Lockheed has confirmed to me it is studying the viability of making a wider version of the 55-year-old C-130 available after 2015.

Read the full story here at FlightGlobal.com, or simply click on the link below.

Lockheed looks to widen Hercules

Lockheed Martin confirms studies are under way for a new version of the C-130featuring a wider fuselage to accommodate a proposed class of US Armyground vehicles entering service after 2015. The enlarged airlifterwould compete against the Airbus Military A400M and Boeing’s proposed C-17B to support the army’s Future Combat System.

“There’sclearly things we can do to the C-130 to increase the size of thefuselage if there’s a market that wants that,” says Jim Grant,Lockheed’s business development director for global mobility andspecial operations forces.

Lockheed Martin EC-130J
 ¬© USAF

“Wehave teams looking at what it would take to make a [longer] fuselage,”Grant says, “and then we also have the design teams looking at theemerging technologies should the requirements drive us to the newairframe.”

Current plans for the FCS consist of a family ofnetworked vehicles and systems, including a key subset of manned groundvehicles that has already outgrown the C-130′s cargo hold and payloadweight limits. The current aircraft’s cargo box has a diameter of 2.78m(9ft), versus 4m for the A400M and 5.48m for the C-17A.

The USAir Force plans to main¬≠tain a fleet of nearly 600 new or upgradedHercules, and believes a mix of 221 modernised C-130Hs and 172new-generation C-130Js will be sufficient to meet most of the army’sintra-theatre airlift requirement, as only 15 of its 76 future brigadecombat teams will receive FCS equipment.

But with the fleet toleave a capability gap for the proposed FCS manned ground vehiclesafter 2015, the USAF is discussing several options.

One is topartner the army to develop an all-new airlifter for delivery after2021. A notional development programme called Joint Future TheatreLift, emphasising either vertical or super-short take-off and access toaustere airstrips, is in the planning stages.

Another option isto buy an off-the-shelf aircraft such as the A400M. Boeing has alsoproposed the C-17B, which is adapted for austere landings withhigher-thrust engines, triple-slotted flaps and an extra main landinggear.

Meanwhile, Lockheed is considering a widened version ofthe C-130J. Grant says engineers are studying modifications forsuper-short take-off capability, but appears dubious that any existingturboprop-powered airlifter will be large enough to accommodate the FCSrequirement.

“I don’t know whether the A400M will be able tocarry the [FCS manned ground] vehicles,” Grant says. “I do not knowwhether the weight of those vehicles will climb right through theweight [limit] of the A400M or not. What I can say is that the A400Mwill continue to be very heavy for [C-130]J-type capability.”


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7 Responses to Hark, the Fat Herc!

  1. Matthew G. Saroff 8 September, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    If you are going to do that, why not just go for a new aircraft, using two of the Europrop International TP400 engines the instead of the 4 engines on the C-130, as the redesign will be nearly as extensive as a new aircraft.

    In the long run, two engines means a much cheaper aircraft to operate.

  2. rapier 8 September, 2008 at 10:38 pm #

    Does “Fred” mean “Freddura” by any chance ?

    Freddura : italian word meaning “quip” ….. :-)

  3. Badtux 9 September, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    One reason for four engines rather than two is robustness. The Herc is known for its ability to keep flying with more holes in it than swiss cheese. There is a reason why over-the-ocean jet airliners are required to have more than two engines, it is for survivability in the case of an engine out. For combat transports survivability is just as big an issue, this isn’t a jet fighter with ejection seats, if it goes down you have bad headlines about dozens of dead bodies shortly thereafter. So while two engines would make sense on a civilian transport that flew into the sort of rough strips that Hercs are known for flying into, I’m not so sure its “cost-effectiveness” would be true for the Herc’s mission — a downed two-engine plane is a lot more expensive than repairing a failed engine on a four-engine plane.

  4. Don't think so... 9 September, 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    Odd, the last time I flew over the Pacific Ocean From the USA to Japan it was in a Boeing 777. if “over-the-ocean jet airliners are required to have more than two engines” I wonder where they stuffed the 3rd GE90 on that airframe

    Also can’t help but notice that the C-27 seems to have a 50% shortfall in engines as well, despite being intended as a front-line transport going into austere strips close to the action

  5. Sprucemoose 10 September, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Badtux – the ‘four engines means combat survivability’ angle only gets you so far if you land in the badlands, as shown in this video of an RAF C-130J:

  6. HerkEng 10 September, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    So, LockMart is just revisiting the old proposed and studied C-130WBS (or Wide Body STOL) from the early 80s (before the HTTB High Technology Test Bed ).
    Bringing the height of the fuselage from 9.1 feet to 11.3 feet and then widening from 10 feet to 11.7 feet.

    They also proposed the same (back then T56-15) engines but with larger props, strengthened ramp, roll control spoilers, double slotted flaps in stead of the single piece barn doors we have now,

    The artist drawings back in the day make the tail end look more like an AN-12 then a Herk.

  7. rapier 13 September, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    C-130 Wide Body Stol …..

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