Special report on military transport: Lift in fortunes



Northrop Grumman surprised me at AUVSI last week by revealing that its new hybrid airship — the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) — is designed to provide the same airlift performance as the Lockheed Martin C-130E Hercules. [Read full story.]

It figures.

There’s no shortage of interest in achieving what Lockheed designer Willis Hawkins clearly got so right nearly 60 years ago with the basic Hercules design. The size of the C-130 cargo box has remained static through five evolutions of fighter jet technology, although its propulsion, payload weight and avionics capability has greatly expanded since the early 1950s.

For our special report on military airlift in this week’s magazine, I focused on EADS North America’s plans to break open the US tactical airlift market with the Airbus A400M. I also wrote about how the C-5M Galaxy is opening eyes in the strategic airlift sector. Meanwhile, my colleague Craig Hoyle breaks down the UK’s airlift conundrum.

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5 Responses to Special report on military transport: Lift in fortunes

  1. Herkeng130 31 August, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    They are almost 5 months to the day too late for April fools. All I see is a nice large target.

  2. Herkeng130 31 August, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    “There’s no shortage of interest in achieving what Lockheed designer Willis Hawkins clearly got so right nearly 60 years ago with the basic Hercules design. The size of the C-130 cargo box has remained static through five evolutions of fighter jet technology, although its propulsion, payload weight and avionics capability has greatly expanded since the early 1950s.”

    These are apples to oranges. The mission of the C-130 is tactical airlift. Nothing to this day does it better. You can make it larger, you can make it smaller but you are still limited by two things. Where does it need to go? And what does it need to bring. The bread and butter of the US Tactical Airlift mission is the ability to bring in equipment to forward operating bases. The C-17 is too large to gain access to the majority of these bases. The C-27J is too small but it is still useful. A good portion of our missions in and out of these bases in Afghanistan were to deliver water and ammo… The majority of the time we were not limited by cargo space available, the majority of the time we were flying in less than half full. We did not have aircraft that were smaller that could carry what we did with the distances we had to fly. What the USAF needs are smaller aircraft for tactical airlift to complement the existing C-130 fleet. Forget the A400m, it won’t happen, likewise (as much as I hate to say it) the An-70 will not happen either. The C-17 is an alright strategic airlift aircraft (besides its short legs…tanker gas baby!) She is much too large to fly into the majority of the bases. Also, she is vulnerable going into these short bases where she may fall under fire because of her turbofans. They have spool up time, and her lag makes her dangerous. That is why Lockheed’s little turbo prop has never fully been replaced, they have nothing as capable to replace her with. The power and torque of the turboprop is instant, always @100%, no spool up time, you get into trouble and bam, you have the power you need to either correct your glide slope or evade enemy fire, the C-17 and the other “tactical” airlift aircraft simply do not have this ability.
    There has been no real need to keep expanding the cargo area of the C-130. There isn’t much need to deliver a main battle tank to the front lines, if you did, it would be a sitting target. You deliver things like that toward the back to protect it till it can protect itself.

    So, do we need a techno-advanced extra larger cargo aircraft with all the bells and whistles… to deliver water and bullets? There just isn’t simply the need. Now with that said. Many nations cannot separate their operations. Most will never be flying into short dirt airstrips near the front lines, most will use them as strategic airlift…so then that is the case for the A400m, the C-17 and the An-70. Not tactical airlift.

  3. Burnzy8 1 September, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Did you miss the point about the airship not needing an airstrip? Also this type of aircraft isn’t meant to replace the cargo planes but to supplement them.

    The Navy and the Marines might get more use out of them in the near term though. They might like having an airship with the same electronics as an E-2D but with a much larger radar aperture and way more persistence ta boot.

    These aircraft have also shown that they’re resistant to even large caliber weapons without catastrophic failure. Think of the airship as very fast ship that doesn’t need a port than a cargo plane that flies in high threat environments.

    I think these aircraft have great potential as long as they live up to the hype. Many awesome ideas get 95% of the way to fruition only to get sandbagged by some Achilles heel. Goodnight.

  4. HerkEng130 1 September, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    “These aircraft have also shown that they’re resistant to even large caliber weapons without catastrophic failure.”

    I can see it now. SECNAV Ray Mabus, and Mrs. Obama will be out on the first LRIP aircraft. “I christen thee, USS Titanic.”

    Color me skeptical Burnzy

  5. Burnzy8 1 September, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Wow, You really have no idea what your talking about do you? The helium is at a lower pressure than the ambient air pressure. Even filled with holes it would take hours to lose lift. VIP transport, really? That’s your take away? The ‘Straw Man’ called and he wants his argument back.

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