Air Transportation: Age And Experience Uber Alles

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June 8, 2018: Germany is buying three American C-130J transports and three KC-130J aerial tankers. Including accessories (mainly electronic), training and tech support these six aircraft will cost $1.4 billion. France has already ordered two C-130Js and two KC-130Js. That makes it possible for the German and French transports to operate as part of a French-German airlift unit that has been long planned but slow to get formed because of delays, and capability problems with the European built 141 ton A400M. This aircraft is in many ways superior to the C-130.

A400M has a cruising speed of 780 kilometers per hour, a range of 6,400 kilometers (with a 20 ton load), and normally carries about 30 tons (or 116 paratroopers or slightly more regular passengers). The 79 ton C-130J has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H it replaces and can carry 20 tons of cargo. What gives the American aircraft an edge is that the C-130 is a long-term success, based on a 1950s design that has been upgraded and improved regularly for over fifty years.

In contrast, there have been so many problems with the A400M that customers have reduced their orders and purchased some C-130Js in the meantime. Germany has 18 A400Ms and another 17 on order. Unlike France, Germany has never operated C-130s in the past but has noted the success of the French C-130Js and KC-130Js and decided to follow the French example. This is especially urgent because of the growing Russian threat and the need for a transport as capable as the C-130J for peacekeeping missions.

Using the C-130 as tankers began in the early 1960s and the KC-130J is the most popular model yet. The KC-130J can carry 27 tons of fuel and can not only refuel helicopters and jets but can also land in a forward (combat zone) airfield and refuel other aircraft while on the ground. The KC-130J can also carry cargo as well and the U.S. Marines have developed a gunship option called Harvest Hawk that adds a targeting pod, with the data going to a special cargo container containing control equipment (computers, commo and displays) enabling operators use of the day/night sensors of the targeting pod, to fire Hellfire missiles hung from the wings. A 30mm Bushmaster cannon is fired out the door so that there would be gunfire support as well.

 


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