Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TOP STORY > >C-130J fleet grows to 14 at base

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

About this time last year, Little Rock Air Force Base’s 41st Airlift Squadron received its first C-130J Super Hercules. On Friday, the squadron received its seventh aircraft from Lockheed Martin and is scheduled to receive a total of 16 C-130Js.

The new J model brings the base’s count of C-130Js to 14 — seven other ultra-modern C-130Js with the 314th Airlift Wing are used for training at the base.

Between the squadron and the wing, the base should eventually have at least 23 C-103Js valued at $1.5 billion.

The 41st AS, the newest unit of the 463rd Airlift Group, standing up at LRAFB from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., last April following the base realignment and closure process, is deployed in Southwest Asia on its first combat deployment.

Lt. Gen. John L. Hudson, commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, delivered the plane to LRAFB.

“It is a great honor to deliver this new C-130J to our warfighters in the 463rd Airlift Group at Little Rock Air Force Base,” Hudson said during Friday’s delivery ceremony.

“The J-model is not just another 130. It brings vastly improved capabilities in terms of range and payload and its ability to conduct the mission to fight and win the global war on terror. It’s a huge advancement,” Hudson said.

The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130 fleet and will replace aging C-130Es.

The C-130J incorporates state-of-the-art technology to reduce manpower requirements from a five-person crew to a three-person crew – two pilots and a loadmaster, lower operating and support costs, and provides life-cycle cost savings over earlier C-130 models.

Generating significantly greater operational effectiveness and efficiency than the older C-130s, the J flies farther, faster and with more payload and higher reliability.

“This increased capability is critical to our mobility arsenal and to our airmen fighting the global war on terror,” the general said, adding the $65 million per plane is “money well spent by American taxpayers to get this capability.”

Lt. Col. Michael Jones, the 463rd’s deputy commander for inspections, described the arrival of the newest planes as a turning point for the C-130J and the 41st AS.

“It’s been just over a year since we received our very first C-130J. Shortly thereafter, we stood up the 41st Airlift Squadron. In that period of time, we’ve received now seven airplanes, and just last month we deployed the squadron to OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom),” Jones said.

“Tremendous, tremendous feat to have accomplished all that — not only standing up the squadron and receiving airplanes, but preparing for war and doing that in 10 months. You folks made it look easy. It’s a huge challenge to do that and it was something that was made to look very easy.

“Congratulations to all of you for doing that,” Jones said.

The new J model expands the tactical airlift role and brings capabilities and improvements over the older E and H model aircraft, Jones said.

“I’m simply awed by the capability, as a career tactical airlifter, that the C-130 brings and talents of the folks maintaining and flying the aircraft,” he said.

“Through combat airlift, we’re making a huge difference in the speed and efficiencies of the C-130J. It is the one piece of advancement in the C-130 that will help efficiently and speedily win the war on terrorism,” he added.

The C-130J aircraft “will help you meet that challenge, giving you another asset to train on and prepare for combat. Certainly it won’t be long before she (airplane) herself goes off to combat and deploys as we increase our commitment to the CENTCOM (Central Command) AOR (Area of Responsibility),” Jones said.