The 21st Century Hercules

F-35B STOVL and a KC-130J in August 2009 during trials of the F-35B BF-2 (2nd STOVL flight test aircraft) uploading fuel into the aircraft at 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 feet at speeds of 200-250 knots.

KC-130J BuNo166765 of VMGR-352 ‘The Raiders’ at Miramar, California in a formation with another Hercules. ‘The Raiders’ were the first to deploy the ‘Harvest Hawk’, during October 2010 in Afghanistan. The first weapons engagement was on 4 November supporting the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangia when one ‘Hellfire’ missile was fired and five enemy insurgents were killed.

The design objective of the C-130J is to provide a replacement that makes good economic sense for any twenty-year-old Hercules. Buying a new C-130J is more cost-effective in the long run than extending the service life of old airplanes.

Al Hansen, Vice President for Airlift Programs at LASC, speaking in April 1994.

In 1991 Lockheed-Martin began designing a stateof-the-art Hercules for the 21st century. British industry participation started in the early 1990s, with a partnership between just two companies and Lockheed-Martin. By January 1998 almost fifty British firms were supporting the C-130J project on a risk-sharing basis and more than £470 million of orders had been placed in the UK. British companies have played an integral role in the development and production of the C-130J, sharing in all orders, irrespective of customer. The aircraft’s new, more powerful and efficient propulsion system is largely produced by British companies including Dowty Aerospace, GKN Westland, Lucas Aerospace and Rolls-Royce.

The most dramatic changes in costs and performance is that the C-130J has two crew instead of four. Also, the avionics are modern state of the art and there is the new Allison AE-2100D3 two-spool powerplant, complete with oil-bath engine starter and new modular gearbox. The T56 has been an outstanding performer – pilots trust it and like its responsiveness – but the AE-2100 has added a new dimension to the C-130J: full authority, digital electronic control is incorporated; there is 29 per cent more take-off thrust; and 15 per cent better fuel economy. The engine is also modular and lighter in weight. Coupled to it is the Dowty-designed composite R391 scimitar-shaped six-bladed propeller unit, replacing the all-metal four-bladed propeller on the C130H. This new propeller is lighter, has fewer parts and delivers 13 per cent mote thrust. (The new propeller subsequently proved extraordinarily successful in live-firing tests, which analysed its ability to sustain damage from direct attack or shrapnel.) Other innovations include Mk.IV carbon brakes coupled with an automatic braking feature and a new anti-skid system to shorten landing distances. A new modular wheel and integral self-jacking struts greatly reduce the time required to change a wheel and make it possible to replace tyres at remote sites without ground-support equipment. A new nose-gear strut improves the stability to taxi on rough airstrips. An updated electronic system with two new converters provides stable power to all avionics and electronic loads.

A new fuel system has a single cross-ship manifold, with half as many fuel-control valves. Foam installed in the dry bays provides added safety and survivability. Because the new engine/propeller combination and reduced drag increase range by 20 per cent, there is no real need for external fuel tanks, although the C-130J can carry an additional 18,700lb of fuel in external tanks if required. Lockheed has relocated the inflight refuelling probe from the centre of the fuselage to the left side over the pilot’s head; this is designed to make it easier for the co-pilot when in-flight refuelling is being performed, than in earlier versions. Lockheed-Martin also plans a boom tanking version for refuelling USAF-type aircraft and this will be offered as future modification. A variable speed basket on the probe-and-drogue refuelling system will permit in-flight refuelling of an F/A-18 and a Bell-Boeing V-22 using the same basket, rather than the two separate baskets at the outset.

Cruising at an average of 310 knots, at up to 30,000 feet, the ‘old’ C-130 burned approximately 5,000lb of fuel every hour. The C-130J and C-130J-30 have a maximum internal fuel load of 45,900lb the maximum is reduced by slightly over 2,000lb when foam is introduced into the tanks – though international C-130Js are not normally equipped with the foam. Lockheed estimated the range of the C-130J to be about 3,000 nautical miles without external tanks. The C-130J-30’s added length added 3,729lb to the aircraft’s empty weight and reduced payload by the same amount. However, the stretch C-130J can carry two additional pallets as compared to the C-130J and ninety-two paratroops as opposed to sixty-four for the standard C-130J.

The cockpit is still approached via a nearvertical ladder, (although there is no fold-down floor panel to cover the ladder well) and the two crew-rest bunks remain at the rear of the cockpit. Although the flight engineer and navigator stations have been eliminated, there is provision for a third crew member (check-out pilot, etc) to sit behind the centre console between the two pilots to monitor the flight, or to operate the aircraft’s systems, as required. The superb ‘greenhouse’ windowing, providing unparalleled all-round vision, has also been retained (although two in the nose have been blanked off). The galley has been turned through 90 degrees to face into the cockpit instead of over the ladder as previously. The control yokes, the nose-wheel steering wheel and the parking-brake handle, are all throwbacks to the familiar C-130s of yore – but all this said, the C-130J cockpit is still revolutionary because in terms of electronics on the aircraft, it is a wholly different world. The systems include a digital autopilot, a fully integrated global positioning system, colour weather and ground-mapping radar and a digital map display, plus an advisory caution and warning system that allows for fault detection.

Mission effectiveness has been infinitely improved thanks to a mission computer allied to electronically controlled engines and propellers, databus architecture and digital avionics. The new configuration includes the USAF-developed Self-Contained Navigation System (SCNS). System architecture is centred around dual Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EF1S) M1L-STD-1553B databuses with analogue and digital interfaces. (Replacing the conventional wiring systems with this data-bus architecture reduced wire assemblies by 53 per cent and wire terminations by 81 per cent. The new design reduced line-replaceable units by 53 per cent.) A new Digital Avionics Flight Control System (DAFCS) is installed for the autopilot and flight director system. An Integrated Diagnostic System (IDS) offers fault detection and isolation and is integrated with the ACAWS greatly to improve maintenance troubleshooting. The ‘virtual systems’ on the aircraft cover automatic thrust control and engine monitoring. The Lucas Aerospace fullauthority, digital engine-control (FADEC) for the Allison AE2100D3 engines provides automatic starting cycles, with automatic shutdown for overspeeding and warnings should other malfunctions occur. It has also meant that the need to line up all four engine powers by setting each power lever is no longer necessary.

Engine status is present on one of the four flatpanel, liquid-crystal (LCD), head-down (HDD) colour displays on vertical bars, while system data is presented as digital readouts on the display. The Westinghouse AN/APN-241 weather/navigation radar display – which equipment includes the only proven forward-looking wind shear mode available today – presents the primary navigation plan, showing the aircraft proceeding along a flight-plan course on a map overlay. Eight different navigational tasks are carried out automatically. An Enhanced Traffic Avoidance System (E-TCAS) and a Ground Avoidence System (GCAS) are also fitted. A second display presents Advisory Caution and Warning System (ACAWA) messages and SKE-2000 (Station Keeping Equipment) information. The fourth display presents all information necessary to fly the aircraft. Two flight dynamics holographic head-up (HUD) displays permit both pilots to maintain a constant out-of-the-window view while monitoring all the data necessary to control the aircraft. All the panels and consoles in the cockpit have been redesigned and the aircraft is compatible with night-vision imaging systems. As a fail-safe, there are two mission computers, although one computer is capable of doing all tasks.

Much of the protracted flight-test programme has concentrated on proving the complex software systems. Lockheed tested the systems heavily in the laboratory and then released the software loads in a staged process involving a flight simulator and the test aircraft. There are almost 600,000 lines of software code in the aircraft and Lockheed-Martin were determined to carry out more comprehensive testing on this aircraft than on any military or civil aircraft before.

N130JA, the C-130J (Hercules C.4/ZH865) prototype, was rolled out of Lockheed’s huge hangar at Marietta on 18 0ctober 1995 in front of distinguished guests from the US and Britain, with Air Marshal Sir John Allison, deputy C-in-C of Strike Command, the guest of honour. One of the most interested observers was Group Captain Brian Symes, station commander at Lyneham, where the first squadron to receive the aircraft was 57, followed by 24 Squadron. A diminutive figure in the crowd turned out to be 82-year-old Willis Hawkins, the chief engineer of the original C-130; in 1951 his late boss, Kelly Johnson, had reluctantly signed the right bit of paper, saying the aircraft was ‘too ugly’ to succeed! What Johnson would have had to say about this new generation of tactical transport aircraft is open to question. Sir John Allison greeted Hercules ZH865 as a milestone aircraft, the latest example of a line which would go down in aviation history as one of the truly great designs.

ZH865 flew for the first time on 5 April 1996. In-flight refuelling tests were carried out in January 1998. A new airflow difficulty emerged when it was found that the aircraft’s tail-fin iced up in freezing conditions. Lockheed came up with a solution, however: a pneumatic rubber boot wrapped around the foot of the tail-fin; this was during ‘cold-weather’ trials Argentina in mid-1998. (Lockheed-Martin had rejected the Falklands for ‘cold-weather’ trials, apparently because the islands have only one runway, in favour of Rio Gallegos, 400 miles from the Falklands base at Mount Pleasant and the home of Argentina’s Exocet force in the 1982 Falklands War.)

The MoD was originally promised that the first production versions for launch customer, the RAF, would begin arriving in the UK in November 1996. Orders received by January 1998 had reached eighty-three firm contracts and sixty-two options for C-130Js, with Italy ordering eighteen aircraft, the RAF twenty-five, the Royal Australian Air Force twelve and the USAF, AFRes and ANG, twenty-eight and the USMC, seven. The MoD took delivery of the first aircraft on 26 August 1998, later joined by the second aircraft on 30 November; the third followed on 22 April 1999. The first of the C-130Js was officially received by the RAF’s Transport Wing at Lyneham, Wiltshire on 23 November 1999, more than two years behind schedule. (The station closed on 31 December 2012 with the majority of its personnel and other assets having moved to RAF Brize Norton). According to some Press reports the delays were such that Lockheed-Martin was forced to present the RAF with a ‘free aircraft!’ From March 2000 Italy began receiving twelve C-130Js. Between 2002 and 2005 ten ‘stretched’ C-130J-30s were delivered. Australia received a dozen C-130J-30s during August 1999 and March 2000 to replace twelve C-130Hs.

In 2014 Lockheed Martin launched an updated civilian version of its C-130J Super Hercules transport, which is designed to operate out of 2,000 foot-long dirt strips in high mountain ranges and have the ability to transport more than 40,000lbs of cargo and supplies.

On 4 February the Bethesda, Maryland-based company announced that it had kicked off the certification process on 21 January, when it filed a notification letter with the US Federal Aviation Administration. Production of the LM-100J Super Hercules began in April 2016. The company expects to receive FAA certification by 2018, following a one-year flight test programme and plans to deliver the first example that same year. The timing comes amid a period of spending cuts by the C-130J’s primary US military customers, making the new civilian LM-100J an attractive source of potential non-military Super Hercules revenue, says the company. ‘This would give us stability in [the Super Hercules] production programme and supply chain,’ Lockheed says, adding that the new aircraft meshes with a broader effort to diversify revenue. The company hopes the aircraft, which will have a base price of around $65 million, will follow the success of its predecessor, the civilian L-100 Hercules. Lockheed sold roughly 115 of those aircraft, which were based on the first-generation C-130, between 1964 and 1992. Now, however, many L-100s are approaching the end of their life cycles, sparking demand for new civilian freighters, it says. ‘We see a natural progression of being able to recapitalise those fleets with an aircraft [that has] better reliability, better capability [and] better maintainability, safety and performance.’

The LM-100J is modelled after the latest generation C-130J Super Hercules, which has been in production since the early 1990s. Unlike previous updates to the C-130, Lockheed says it took a ‘revolutionary approach’ with the J model, giving it digital avionics and making a series of design changes to improve performance and reduce operating costs.

‘All of those concepts are flowing to the LM-100J,’ Lockheed says. When it first developed the original C-130J, it also received a type certificate for a civilian version. But primary customers were militaries and Lockheed says it lost the civilian certificate as the aircraft’s military avionics, communications and navigation equipment evolved.

Described by the company as a ‘civil multipurpose air freighter,’ the new LM-100J will have modern avionics and a ‘digital back end’ system with a loadmaster computer station that will assist with loading and weight and balance. The cargo compartment will be 15 feet longer than the L-100, providing space for two additional pallets and the aircraft will be able to carry 33% more payload on a 2,500 nm flight, say Lockheed.

The LM-100J, which has the ability to fly 2,200 nm with a 40,000lb payload, has about 50% more range than the L-100, according to Lockheed. Its top speed will be 355 knots; 10% faster than its predecessor. In addition, the LM-100J will be operated by two flight crew (instead of three for the L-100), will burn 15% less fuel and have maintenance costs that are 35% less. LM-100Js will be built at Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia facility and will be powered by four Rolls-Royce AE2100D turboprops, which will provide 30% more power than the L-100’s Allison T-56 power plants, the company says. Lockheed estimates it can sell 75 to 100 LM-100Js over twenty years, a level of demand similar to that for the original L-100. Though the company declines to name prospective customers, it says oil, gas and mineral exploration companies are interested. Such companies must transport heavy equipment like generators and earth moving equipment to remote outposts not linked to railways or roads. They need rugged aircraft that can operate from ‘austere’, unpaved runways. The LM-100J will help bring stability to the Super Hercules programme, as the US government trims its defence budget, says Lockheed. In fiscal year 2014, the US Navy received $69 million for procurement of tankervariant KC-130Js; almost half of the $134 million the service requested, according to budget documents. Likewise, the US Air Force requested $1.4 billion but received $1.3 billion for the procurement of C-130Js, including special-mission MC-130Js and search and rescue HC-130Js. ‘[The LM-100J] adds another capability towards the Hercules portfolio that hasn’t existed in a while,’ Lockheed says. ‘It looks really promising.’

 

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