NAVAIR’s Hairy Buffalo Looking for Some Good Racks
Small business qualifier Knight Aerospace Products, Inc. in San Antonio, TX received a $10 million maximum firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of up to 20 palletized rack mission systems in support of the AIR-4.5 Hairy Buffalo program. Work on this contract will be performed in San Antonio, Texas, and is expected to be completed in April 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md issued the contract (N00421-06-D-0017).
Flying hairy buffaloes are usually associated with large amounts of tequila, but this is a real US Navy program. They’re somewhat platform-agnostic, and their mission involves coordinating electronics/C4ISR related programs that bring new capabilities to existing aircraft at reasonable cost, or quickly prototyping capabilities that are relevant to new platforms. Past efforts have involved NP-3 Orion testbed modifications and UAV experiments, but this contract is related to the EC-130J Commando Solo II…
The work with Knight Aerospace is related to a program involving US SOCOM and Lockheed Martin. When complete, it would allow EC-130J Commando Solo II “flying broadcasters” to become multi-role aircraft. Knight Aerospace Products, Inc.’s roll-on/ roll-off racks and pallets would hold the TV and radio broadcast gear used by the aircraft in its missions, allowing the aircraft to be quickly converted for cargo duties if required and then back to “Commando Solo” status.
The EC-130J Commando Solo II is a specially-modified C-130J Hercules medium transport aircraft that conducts information operations, psychological operations and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands. These missions are flown and run by the 193rd Special Operations Wing, an Air National Guard Unit that flies out of Harrisburg International Airport, PA. A recent contract involved procurement and conversion of a 7th aircraft to accompany the existing fleet of 6, and that aircraft is slated for delivery in September 2006.
GlobalSecurity.org notes that C-130Js slated for EC-130J conversion have their airframes modified to allow aerial refueling, and to accommodate upgraded electrical and power systems. The aircraft are then ready for the improved navigation systems and self-protection equipment featured in the EC-130J, as well as the up-to-date but rather power-hungry radio and television broadcast equipment and antennas that make up their mission package.
In contrast to the large wing pods and visible antennas featured on current EC-130J Commando Solo II aircraft, however, the current “ro-ro Commando Solo” initiative would result in an airframe that doesn’t differ very much from current C-130Js when viewed externally. The final aircraft would thus confer some tactical/strategic benefits in addition to role flexibility benefits.
Note that past Hairy Buffalo efforts have been based around a modified NP-3C Orion aircraft, and this 2003 NAVAIR release notes that they have been used to serve as a test bed for advanced communications experiments that have included exercising full control of Aerolight UAVs. This is highly relevant to the future P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft, which will be used in conjunction with the future BAMS UAV.