The C-130J: New Hercules & Old Bottlenecks
September 22/17: The US Air Force’s (USAF) newest gunship, the AC-130J Ghostrider, will be declared operational later this month. However, the aircraft will not be combat ready for another two years as the USAF Special Operations Command is behind in training operators. The new configuration has taken the refuelling pods out of an existing MC-130J, replacing them with weapons racks outfitted with precision strike packages. Armaments found on the Block 10 AC-130J configuration includes an internal 30mm gun, GPS-guided small diameter bombs and laser-guided missiles that will launch from the rear cargo door, while the Block 20 adds a 105mm cannon and large aircraft infrared countermeasures. Future updates include the addition of wing-mounted Lockheed AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and radio-frequency countermeasures. A number will have the 30mm gun replaced with a high-energy laser.
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
The (Private) Labors of Hercules: the C-130J Family
Base Platform: The C-130J
The Value of Variants
Turbulent Flight: The C-130J Program
The C-130J and the 20-ton Bottleneck
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2016 – 2017
FY 2006 and earlier
FY 2005 and earlier (incomplete)
Additional Readings & Sources
News & Related Developments
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