MANSFIELD – Three C-130H2 models have arrived at the 179th Airlift Wing, adding to the base's current C-130H fleet, according to a Wednesday morning press release from the United States Air Force.
The first two planes arrived on July 19 and the third on Aug. 8. The third aircraft arrived just one day following an announcement from Air Mobility Command regarding a C-130 Rainbow Fitting Cracking issue, the press release states.
This announcement ordered the temporary removal of 123 of 450 Total Force C-130 Hercules from service on Aug. 7, after atypical cracks were discovered on the lower center wing joint, or “rainbow fitting,” during programmed depot maintenance. This affected 5 of 11 of the 179th Airlift Wing's C-130 Aircraft and after inspection, no cracks were discovered.
"I want to thank all members across the wing for their over the top effort this week in taking care of the immediate grounding inspection," said Col. Todd K. Thomas, 179th Airlift Wing Commander. "You continue to put the safety of our Airmen at the highest priority, and still minimized our C-130 fleet downtime."
These planes, which recently received modifications at Dyess AFB, Texas, and are in the process of being altered for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) modification, should be completed in the coming months. According to the press release, these modifications allow these planes to fly in Class B and above airspace, allowing them to safely share congested airspace with commercial aircraft.
The aircraft also arrived equipped with Electronic Propeller Control Systems, which is a huge advance for the 179th AW maintenance team. The EPCS upgrades will replace the hydro mechanical propeller control system, which most of the planes currently assigned to the unit still use.
Col. Ken Kmetz, 179th Maintenance Group Commander and incoming Vice Commander of the 179th Airlift Wing, shared his excitement about these aircraft and what it means to the unit.
“This is a big deal for Mansfield and our future capability as we transition yet again to H2s,” Kmetz said. “We will have had 38 aircraft assigned to us in the last ten years once we receive our last H2 and divest our last H1 – we had 17 aircraft assigned to us over the previous 35 years.”
The unit is an experienced C-130 organization, first flying the C-130B model in 1976 then having flown a variety of C-130H models including both H1 and H2 in the past. H2 models left in 2010 while the unit transitioned to C-27J Spartan and H1 models returned after that program ended in 2013.
The 179th Maintenance Group has since serviced a multitude of H1’s and H2’s and continued to maintain successful operations with some of the oldest aircraft in the entire Air Force inventory. However, all of these aircraft must be modernized in order to meet the needs of tomorrow's Air Force as well as the Federal Aviation Administration’s ADS-B Out requirements.
“We project these aircraft are here to stay for years to come,” Col. Kmetz said. “These aircraft will be much more capable and enduring while giving our operators much better combat situational awareness.”
The EPCS upgrades are just some of the modifications that will be made to the C-130s in the upcoming years. Other enhancements include new modular blade propeller technology, collision avoidance technology, and reinforcing the aircrafts’ wing boxes.
Incorporating modular blade technology (NP2000) and the T-56 Series 3.5 engine upgrades will provide increased performance and reliability. The NP 2000 eight-bladed propeller decreases propeller maintenance time, increases performance and fuel efficiency while being transported by taking up less pallet space. The NP 2000 provides improved thrust and readiness, while reducing operations and support costs. Recent testing of the NP 2000 has demonstrated at least a 20% increase in takeoff performance.
With these continued enhancements and modifications, the 179th AW hopes to keep their C-130’s modernized, relevant and flying for many years into the future.