News>Air logistics center upgrades center wing boxes on C-130s
Workers guide the center wing box as it is lifted from a C-130 Hercules. A three-phase project is under way at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., to replace the center wing boxes in all C-130 models except the C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sue Sapp)
by Damian Housman
Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Public Affairs
11/15/2006 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- Workers here began a three-phase project in November to ensure the viability of the C-130 Hercules fleet through the year 2030 and beyond.
Center wing boxes on C-130s have been showing cracks earlier than expected. As a result, members of the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group have removed the center wing box from aircraft 83-1212 and will replace it with a new center wing box as part of the first step in addressing the problem. The center wing box sits atop the fuselage and forms the attachment point for both wings and all four engines.
During phase two, maintenance crews will replace the center wing boxes on an additional 12 C-130s. Projected completion is by 2009.
The third phase is scheduled to begin in January 2007. By 2020, 155 C-130s will have new center wing boxes.
The replacement program encompasses all C-130 models except the C-130J. The J model is the latest addition to the C-130 fleet and entered the inventory in February 1999.
"The new center wing boxes are the same ones being manufactured for the C-130J, so they are brand new," said Dusty Dodd, chief of C-130 programs for the 330th Aircraft Sustainment Group.
Center wing boxes are built by Lockheed Martin of Marietta, Ga. Once removed, old center wing boxes will be destroyed.
According to Mr. Dodd, there are 47 aircraft with flying restrictions, plus another 30 completely grounded because of the cracks.
"The replacement program is important because of the impact the loss of those aircraft could have to the warfighter," he said, adding that the replacement program will get ahead of the "grounding-restriction curve" by 2012.
"By that time we will have center wing boxes installed in aircraft before they would be restricted or grounded," he said.
Aircraft 83-1212 already was going through programmed depot maintenance, but this may not be the case for future aircraft.
"During the peak production phase, when we ramp up to about 18 aircraft per year, aircraft will be brought in just for center wing box replacement," Mr. Dodd said.
The cost of center wing box replacement will be $6.5 million to $7 million per aircraft, depending on the model.
"That's a lot of money, but a new aircraft would cost 10 times as much," Mr. Dodd said.
"The C-130 is the workhorse of the fleet," he continued. "It's the primary intra-theater airlifter in the war zone, and a major component of special operations missions. Without this effort, availability of the aircraft would be significantly lower. That's why this program is so vital to America and to those carrying the war on terrorism to the enemy."
(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)