The director of the Air National Guard wants to introduce a new study next year evaluating the Guard’s C-130 fleet to address how many and what model the Guard needs for domestic missions.
The active duty Air Force is transitioning to the more advanced J-model while also modernizing the H-model fleet. Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, the Air National Guard director, said he’d like his fleet to also upgrade, but Air Force budgetary restrictions will mean the Guard will continue flying older H-models for the foreseeable future.
“We can’t [recapitalize] fast enough to replace the H-model,” Clarke said at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland.
Eventually, the ANG director said he would like to lay out a road map to completely transition the Guard to the J-model, but he said a year-long study is required.
The Air Force now operates 362 C-130s, including 260 H-models and 102 more modern J-models. Overall, the services’ fiscal year 2015 budget calls for the delivery of 134 J-models and maintenance of 194 H-models for a total force size of 328 C-130s, service officials said.
The service eventually expects to buy a total of 168 J-models at an estimated cost of $15.8 billion. About $10 billion of that has already been spent on the program.
The Air National Guard operates more C-130 Hercules than the active duty with 181 in the Guard and 145 in the active force. Another 102 are assigned to the Reserve force.
Compared with the legacy H-models, J-model aircraft are configured with more powerful engines and modernized cockpit technology, avionics and instrumentation, Col. Robert Toth, division chief for special operations, rescue and trainer programs, said in August.
Unlike the older 1970s-era gauges built onto the H-model planes, the C-130Js are configured with digital moving maps, upgraded flight management systems and instrumentation on glass displays, Toth explained.
The C-130J aircraft have a better short take-off-and-landing ability, climb rate and range compared to the H-model planes, he said.
Ongoing upgrades to the C-130H aircraft add an additional 40,000 hours of flying time to the plane and extend the life of the H-model aircraft out to 2040 or 2045, Toth added.
The Air Force also must upgrade the C-130H’s radios in order to comply with new FAA regulations in 2020.
Clarke said a C-130 study would have to account for these many issues facing the C-130 fleet and the split between the H and J models.
-- Kris Osborn contributed to this report.