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C-130J upgrades lead in tactical airlift power

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emma Anderson
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
 In 2020, the C-130J Super Hercules inventory began upgrading. The newest model arrived at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, on June 23, 2023, and is the first Block 8.1 aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing. Over the next two years, the 317th will continue to receive more upgraded aircraft, slowly replacing the previous Block 6.0 model. The aircraft’s upgrades happen at one of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s authorized C-130J heavy maintenance centers in Canada, taking four months to complete. The upgrade is primarily internal, focusing on avionics and data link capabilities. There are now two civil GPS receivers, a civil data link suite and a military data link system. On the aircraft, upgraded mission computers enhance vertical navigation capabilities and have a worldwide navigation database. “These upgrades allow us to maintain and expand our civilian compliance,” said Capt. Gregg Burrow, 39th Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations. “The data link system provides the next generation of warfare with a better network dynamic as we maintain network awareness in the battle space. Before this, it was just radios for us.” The Block 8.1 upgrades expand the locations that the C-130J can operate utilizing GPS-based instrument approaches in airfields worldwide, maintaining stricter international route navigation compliance due to increased global air traffic. The data link upgrades improve reach back capabilities to command and control authorities. Link-16, the military data link system, increases battle space situational awareness and joint capabilities. The maintenance and diagnostics upgrades decrease troubleshooting times and improve manpower. The Block 8.1 upgrades help pilots, loadmasters, and maintenance personnel by providing enhanced mission capabilities using modern technologies. The simulator is scheduled to be completed in September where pilots will begin a one-month upgrade training program at Dyess. The training for loadmasters and maintenance personnel will be conducted locally as well, minimizing time away from operational requirements. “Modernizing the C-130J is a force multiplier for the team,” said Col. Thomas Lankford, 317th AW commander. “Our adversaries are not sitting back and waiting. They are constantly upgrading while testing and viewing our capabilities. Consistently upgrading ourselves improves capability while assisting pilots, loadmasters, maintenance and the crew overall.”