Air Force officials are
standing by the C-130J Hercules as the aircraft prepares to join
the fight, despite a recent Department of Defense inspector general
report criticizing the program.
The Air Force fully endorses the C-130J, senior Air Force
acquisitions officials said. The program is one of Air Mobility
Command’s top priorities and the aircraft is currently
planned to be ready for combat deployment by the end of 2004.
In fact, the C-130J already is supporting combat missions in
Iraq as part of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, said
Col. Paul Stipe, the deputy director of global reach programs for
the Air Force.
“This aircraft was developed by Lockheed Martin at its own
expense, and the company contributed more than a billion dollars of
its own money to develop (the C-130J) for the commercial
market,” Colonel Stipe said. “And they were successful.
They sold it to the United Kingdom, to Italy, Australia and
Denmark. In fact, the United Kingdom purchased it before the United
“There are two basic ways to buy an aircraft,” said
Colonel Stipe. “One way is to pay a company to develop an
aircraft that meets your needs from scratch. This way, the Air
Force pays for all the research and development and all the
modifications. The other way is to buy an aircraft commercially
developed and then adapt it to Air Force needs. With the C-130J,
the commercial route was more advantageous.
“With the commercial route, the Lockheed Martin
development investment of over $1 billion is shared by the myriad
of users and not just by the DOD. Another advantage was that they
could deliver the first planes faster,” he said.
The first aircraft were delivered in 1999. The Air Force then
took the next step, testing the aircraft and integrating the
military capabilities onto the commercial aircraft.
“Through testing, we’ve really been able to wring
out the aircraft for its diverse missions,” said Colonel
Stipe. “As part of this process Lockheed has invested at
least another $100 million in upgrades and fixes. Through all this,
we are confident that we will deploy the C-130J to combat areas by
the end of this year.”
While the outside of the aircraft looks no different than
previous models, the inside is a whole new animal, according to Lt.
Col. James Dendis, acquisitions deputy chief of tactical airlift,
special operations forces and trainer division.
“This looks like the older C-130s, but only on the
outside," he said. "The avionics have been updated throughout, and
the aircraft is arguably more complex now than our C-17 Globemaster
III large cargo aircraft. It is a phenomenally complex,
computer-driven, high-tech airplane.”
When all of the bugs are worked out, it will be a lot easier to
maintain than the older versions, said Colonel Dendis, because the
computer test equipment makes troubleshooting and repairs
“The pilots love it, and the maintainers love it,”
Colonel Stipe said. “It’s designed to be very easy to
Leaders are confident the aircraft will rapidly become a
valuable asset to the 21st century Air Force, despite early
“Initial rounds of operational tests showed more work was
needed to bring the plane up to our very demanding
standards,” said Gen. John Handy, commander of U.S.
Transportation Command and AMC. “The work to convert this
aircraft for military use is scheduled or already completed.
“The Air Force … is confident that the C-130J will
more than prove itself in global mobility operations,” he
added. [ANN Thanks Staff Sgt. Melanie Streeter, AFPN]