Huge overhaul to keep Air Force C-130 has been flying for 80 years in 2030s

File photo – The 179th Airlift Wing performs a five ship formation flight with five of their eight C-130H Hercules to perform coordinated airdrops, April 26, 2018. If the device for the first five ship formation since the conversion back to the C-130H, flight, members of the maintenance, aerial port, and operational groups to work together to increase the overall readiness of the deployable assets. (U. S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood/RELEASED)

The air force plans to fly the war-tested 1950-era C-130 aircraft in the 2030s and beyond by a magnificent, multifaceted technical overhaul, designed to be the propeller-aircraft flown for the run of the high-risk troop transport and combat support missions for the coming decades.

Although there are many innovations, upgrades and technological improvements to the aircraft, as it originally appeared in the middle of the 1950s, the historical load of the aircraft, wind can fly for more than 80 years, according to the current Air Force plans.

The service is giving the platform new screw technology, radio’s, glass cockpit touch screen displays, digital, electronic, collision avoidance technology and reinforced “wing boxes,” service officials said.

The airframes themselves are a crucial focal point of the effort, the Air Force developers explain, which consists of replacing and strengthening the “center wingbox” of the aircraft where the wings mount to the fuselage.

“The C-130 center wing box replacement program replaces in the time-limited center wing boxes on the applicable variants of the C-130’s. Center wing box installations are underway at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center for legacy C-130s and C-130js as flying hours needed,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told the Warrior Maven.

As for when a C-130 needs maintenance, upgrade and preserve the life of the Air Force used an assessment referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are modified when the aircraft is on a certain “severity factor” in the operational service of the time.

This is necessary because the wear and impact of missions and the aircraft can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as the height at which a plane flies, Air Force weapons developers said.

“Low-level flight can be three to four times the severity factor of flying on a higher level,” a senior Air Force official told Warrior.

An Avionics Modernization Program by Air Force developers, and the upgrades also add new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve the communication and initiatives to upgrade the cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s also get new collision avoidance technology designed to prevent the aircraft from hitting the ground or colliding with each other in the middle of the air

If a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130’s are able to fly at low altitudes, land in more rugged conditions, and is resistant to heavy weather conditions, such as obscurants. The propellers of the aircraft, the engines are less sensitive to dirt flies and the cause of operating problems for the engines.

An Air Force C-17, on the other hand, needs to operate in more defined conditions, such as areas with more separated or free runways. Flying debris or uneven terrain can also cause problems for the C-17 engines, while the C-130 is specially designed for low-altitude, high-risk combat zones with uneven terrain – scenarios that both durability and maneuverability. In fact, In the so-called “hot” or active combat zones, C-130’s airdrop of weapons, supplies and even troops, if called upon by the Commanders.

These factors are the height of a large part of the analysis for the current Air Force effort to replace the C-130’s, existing hydro-mechanical propeller control system with a new Electronic Propeller Control System (epcs).

Electronic Propeller Control System change is underway for all C‑130Hs, Grabowski said.

“The T-56 3.5 engine, 8-blade screw, and the epc’s undergo operational test and evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. These changes were tested individually, and are now undergoing testing together to determine whether the combination of operational effectiveness,” she added.

An essay written by the National Guard Association of the United States more deeply into the merits of the transition to electronic propeller control systems.

“The epcs improves safety by accelerating response time when throttles rapidly advanced; an issue in previous mishaps. The legacy propeller control system uses 1950’s technology and is a significant maintenance driver,” 2015 National Guard Association “C-130 Propulsion Upgrade”, paper for the Conference states.

Gear improvements, such as these naturally bring tactical advantages; more agile aircraft to allow for better processing and to speed up its less vulnerable to enemy ground missile attacks.

“The epcs kits replace 54H60 propeller mechanical controls with a system on the basis of a digital computer-software, offering improved reliability and a more accurate performance. Epcs represents a 50-year-old jumped in prop control technology for the C-130 operators with the 54H60 propeller,” a statement from the epc-maker Hamilton Sundstrand states.

The original 1999 US Patent Application for Electronic Propeller Control Systems, filed by United Technologies with a small group of inventors, explains that the new power system improves the mechanisms for controlling the pitch angle of a propeller blade. This improves the manoeuvrability, makes a faster acceleration of the throttle and optimizes the connection between the end of the controls and the movements of the propeller blades. A stable pitch angle, described as the angle between the horizontal and vertical axis of the aircraft, it is essential to aircraft performance and flight stability.

“The device converts mechanical inputs of the propeller and airframe systems to electronic signals which can be measured by the electronic control. The device receives and converts the electronic control of the commands in the hydraulic pressure and flow changes by means of an electro-hydraulic servo valve,” the Patent’s Abstract writes.

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