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'New beast': Hercules gets make over

By Lance Cpl. Daniel Thomas | | August 8, 2002

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Many Marines have heard the all too familiar cadence echoing throughout almost every formation run. 'C-130 rolling down the strip, United States Marines gonna take a little trip...'Soon Marines will be taking a trip on a new and improved C-130 -- the KC-130J.The new Hercules was here July 2 through 31 for operational tests and the crew allowed some members of the fleet to get a sneak peak at what is to come."The new KC-130Js are all gray with black props and really look sharp," said Eric Werking, flight test engineer, Naval Air Warfare Center.According to Werking, looks aren't the only thing the new aircraft has going for it."The big advantage is a completely redesigned cockpit," said Werking. "It's all glass and all the gauges have been replaced with digital displays."The new cockpit gives pilots a massive amount of situational awareness, said Werking. Pilots can now find their critical flight information at eye level instead of having to look down. The heads up display, which pulls down from above the pilot's head, is digital and made of glass. It is designed to allow the pilot to view flight information without taking his eyes off of the sky in front of him.The mighty Hercules also seems to have taken a few steroids in the engine department."The new digitally-controlled engines and new propellers have resulted in a lot more power," said Werking. The KC-130J has many new improvements but is still in test status. "We've discovered some deficiencies in fueling but those are getting worked out," said Werking. "But that's why we are here, the developmental tests are designed to find these things." The reason the aircraft was tested in Yuma was because of hot weather operations. "We wanted to test it in the most mission representative climates and Yuma offers that," said Werking. According to Werking, when all of the tests have been completed the plane will go into the full production process. "It kind of brings the whole KC-130 fleet into the 21st century," said Werking. "The 'J' will probably be around as long or longer than the legacy C-130 which was designed in the 50's and is still in use today." "I think it is a tremendous improvement over the former airplane," said Charlie Meyer, research anylist, Tekla Research, who assists with the operational evaluation of military aircraft. It's capable of doing the same mission with fewer people because of it's much improved avionics and guidance equipment, said Meyer.The old C-130 was about as safe as you can get with an aircraft and this one should be about the same, Meyer added.The new KC-130J will have some new safety features, among those are a de-icer located on the tail wing and a flight recorder box located in the cargo compartment. "It's a great airplane and I think the Marine Corps is going to be really happy with it," said Meyer.Already, Marines have begun talking about the new aircraft."It's the same frame as the old C-130s but for some reason it looks like more of a hot rod," said Staff Sgt. Kraig S. Kerkenides, loadmaster for the test team.The new Hercules requires less runway to take off and can plunge straight up without having to drop its nose to gain momentum, said Kerkenides."The aircraft is a maintainers dream," said Sgt. Robert Santos, power line division. "The ground maintenance system and portable maintenance aid tells you what is wrong with the aircraft right when you get off the plane."According to Santos, the airplane looks the same on the outside but is a completely different beast on the inside.When this new beast has completed all of its tests it will be ready for the fleet.The British have already began their use of the new KC-130J and have incorporated it on missions to Afghanistan. Currently the United States has nine of the aircraft and the Marine Corps can expect to have their own by 2005.
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