Avalon 2019: Concepts Arise for C-130J Enhancements

Jericho proof-of-concept effort to improve capabilities of C-130J

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is running a proof-of-concept effort called ‘Jericho’ to improve the capabilities of the C-130J tactical transport aircraft as the service moves towards a fifth-generation fleet. The intention of Jericho is to show that by innovating and using existing systems and technologies the existing roles of the aircraft can be easily enhanced. The plan involves adding SATCOM and targeting sensors with an operator station.

Group Captain Anthony Bull, Director of Capability Development for Air Mobility Group from the RAAF told MON that a priority for aircraft is to have 360° situational awareness and, “to achieve that we need larger bandwidth,” to enable better communications and information transfer between ground and airborne forces.

One of the RAAF C-130J aircraft, 448, has been fitted with a JetWave Ka-band Satcom system from Honeywell to test this concept and the aircraft has already been tested on exercise. With the improved data flow and connectivity with other assets like the E-7A WEDGETAIL and P-8A POSEIDON and ground forces it means that soldiers onboard can get live updates from headquarters on operational and tactical situations on the ground.

With a better understanding of the battlespace the troops can change their plans whilst airborne in transit to improve their ability to adapt to the conditions when they arrive. It is hoped that following the success of aircraft 448 that a Satcom system can be fitted across the fleet in the next 2-4 years.

The other concept under Jericho is the augmented crew station. The J-model has 2 pilots and 1 or 2 loadmasters. The two pilots are used in a high threat environment so the intention is to have a third operator station for navigation and as an air combat officer that can run Link 16, communications, and the AN/AAQ-28 LITENING electro-optical/infra-red targeting pod by Northrop Grumman and Rafael.

As the classic HORNET F/A-18A/B are retired from 2022 their LITENING pods will become available for installation on other aircraft. These could be fitted to the space on the wing outboard of the second engine where there is space for the pod. GPCAPT Bull said it would improve real-time situational awareness and not change the role of the aircraft. However it could provide a useful ISR overwatch role for ground forces locating threats, providing fire support information, precision airdrop and imagery and data for humanitarian and air defence roles.

GPCAPT Bull said the plan is to fit one C-130J with a pod by the end of the year to test the concept. Up to 40 pods from the Hornets could become available over the coming years and two are already fitted to the C-17 aircraft under Jericho. Depending on the success of the concept it could also lead to a fleet-wide installation.

Elsewhere the RAAF would like to introduce the JPADS precision airdrop system to its Lockheed Martin C-130J fleet to provide a more accurate stand-off ability to send equipment to ground forces. JPADS uses GPS and a motorised pulley system to control the direction of the parachutes to direct the load to the right landing spot. This would remove the need for C-130s to reduce altitude and speed for non-guided airdrop and increase the aircraft’s safety, otherwise it remains vulnerable to small arms fire and other weapons by flying under 3000ft.

Tim Fish

 

Publish date

02/26/2019

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