De­liv­ery of lat­est C-130 fills out train­ing fleet

Jack­sonville base’s switch to new Su­per Her­cules haulers com­plete

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - ERIC BESSON

The de­liv­ery of the last “Su­per Her­cules” air­plane to Lit­tle Rock Air Force Base on Mon­day marked the first time in 13 years a squadron tasked with train­ing pi­lots and crew for the hulk­ing cargo planes has a full fleet.

Lt. Col. Jared Paslay, who com­mands the 62nd Air­lift Squadron, said the base now has more ca­pac­ity to train roughly 1,300 stu­dents a year who come through Jack­sonville be­fore they’re as­signed to their posts world­wide as pi­lots and crew on C-130s.

A cer­e­mo­nial land­ing her­alded the com­ple­tion of the air base’s tran­si­tion to the new­est model of the Lock­heed C-130 Her­cules line that has a 60-year-old legacy as a plane known for va­ri­ety of mis­sions it can fly.

The phase-in of the C-130J, nick­named the Su­per Her­cules, at Lit­tle Rock was first planned 20 years ago, Paslay said. The base has more Su­per Her­cules planes than any other in the world.

“I think it marks the com­ple­tion of a 20-year promise, re­ally, for a sim­u­la­tor and a C-130 fleet that can train the world’s best air-lifters,” Paslay said. “We’ve been kind of work­ing with re­duced re­sources since [2003], so it will be re­ally nice to be at full ca­pac­ity.”

The Su­per Her­cules flies far­ther, faster and higher than its pre­de­ces­sors and re­quires less space to take off and land. The model flown to Jack­sonville on Mon­day can hold up to 23 tons of cargo, in­clud­ing he­li­copters and six-wheeled ar­mored ve­hi­cles, and has space to fit 128 com­bat troops or 92 para­troop­ers.

Aside from panes above its nose, the nearly 133-foot-long gray air­plane with a 132½-foot wing­span is win­dow­less. A ramp at the rear low­ers to load and re­lease the cargo — any­thing from air­men, parachutists or food to am­mu­ni­tion, gaso­line or ve­hi­cles.

New tech­nol­ogy has made the plane’s nav­i­ga­tor and engi­neer ob­so­lete, re­duc­ing the on­board staff to two pi­lots and one per­son re­spon­si­ble for the cargo, Paslay said.

C-130s, the old­est con­tin­u­ously pro­duced mil­i­tary air­craft in his­tory, can be con­fig­ured for com­bat de­liv­ery, aerial and ground re­fu­el­ing, and elec­tronic war­fare, among other uses, ac­cord­ing to Lock­heed Martin.

Maj. Gen. James Hecker, com­man­der of the 19th Air Force, flew the plane from Greenville, S.C., with help from co- pi­lots Maj. David Pearce and Maj. Gor­don White.

“I think you men­tioned I was aided by the crew,” said Hecker, who had only flown the C-130 three times. “They pretty much car­ried me.”

Staff Sgt. Joshua Shields ac­cepted the key to the air­plane, which was the 368th J model Lock­heed Martin pro­duced, Hecker said.

Lock­heed de­liv­ered the first C-130 or Her­cules in 1956 af­ter the Air Force rec­og­nized a need to “take all of the as­pects — pas­sen­gers, cargo, you name it, air­drop — and com­bine it into one air­plane” when cross­ing the 89th par­al­lel dur­ing the Korean War, Hecker said.

More than 2,500 C-130s have been man­u­fac­tured, and they are spread across more than 70 na­tions, Hecker said.

No air base in the world has more Su­per Her­cules air­craft than Lit­tle Rock, which has 42 — 14 as­signed to the 62nd Squadron, Hecker said. Count­ing the Arkansas Air

Na­tional Guard’s Lit­tle Rock wing, the num­ber of C-130s is 61, Hecker said.

Lit­tle Rock Air Force Base, also home to C-130 sim­u­la­tors, trains op­er­a­tors of the planes not only for the Air Force but for the U.S. Coast Guard and Depart­ment of De­fense. Part­ner­ships with al­lied na­tions send Ja­panese, Iraqis, Afghans and oth­ers to the base for train­ing.

“I think of us as stew­ard­ing the heart of tac­ti­cal air­lift for the Air Force,” said Paslay, who has com­manded the 62nd Squadron for a month but has been sta­tioned at the

base for more than a year. “We’re go­ing to pretty much have a say in the ma­jor­ity of C-130 per­son­nel in the Air Force and also in our in­ter­na­tional part­ners’ [forces].”

The 62nd Air Squadron, which only han­dles C-130s, is staffed by 105 air­men. Train­ing for stu­dents in Lit­tle Rock can span a few months to half a year.

“When they leave here, they should be fully qual­i­fied — if they do a full course — to do as­sault pro­ce­dures, tac­ti­cal low-level, night-vi­sion gog­gles, air­drop and air­lift,” Paslay said. “Stu­dents

who grad­u­ate here could find them­selves in a war zone in a cou­ple of months.”

Lock­heed Martin has man­u­fac­tured two ver­sions of the C-130J, one shorter in length and with less cargo ca­pac­ity. The plane de­liv­ered Mon­day is con­sid­ered the “stretch” ver­sion. Of the 14 in Paslay’s squadron, about half are the stretch model, he said.

Lock­heed will con­tinue pro­duc­ing the Su­per Her­cules for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­til at least 2020 through a $5.3 bil­lion con­tract signed in 2015, a com­pany of­fi­cial said.

Larry Gal­lo­gly, sales di­rec­tor

of Lock­heed Martin’s air mo­bil­ity pro­grams, said the com­pany plans to de­velop more vari­a­tions of the C-130J and in­crease the types of mis­sions it can fly.

“We will de­pend on our cur­rent op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing the Lit­tle Rock team, to help us de­fine the [Su­per Her­cules’] present and fu­ture — their in­sights and sup­port have been key to the on­go­ing rel­e­vancy and evo­lu­tion of the C-130 Her­cules,” Gal­lo­gly said by email. “We plan to man­u­fac­ture the C-130J as long as needed to meet our cus­tomers’ needs.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORN­TON

Crew mem­bers walk from a C-130J Her­cules air­craft to a stage Mon­day for a cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing the plane’s de­liv­ery at Lit­tle Rock Air Force Base in Jack­sonville.

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