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C-130s are SUVs of airlift

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Warner Robins Air Logistics Center workers here consider the C-130 Hercules the SUV of airlift.  The aircraft has been going strong for more than 50 years and with modernization efforts could last another 50 years.  (Courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Warner Robins Air Logistics Center workers here consider the C-130 Hercules the SUV of airlift. The aircraft has been going strong for more than 50 years and with modernization efforts could last another 50 years. (Courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- In a world where fighters are seen as the sleek Lamborghinis of the flying world, C-130s are still carrying the load as the SUVs of airlift. According to workers from of the C-130 system program office and the production people who maintain the aircraft here, that is just what it should be doing.

While smaller jet planes may get all of the attention, the mighty C-130 Hercules has its place firmly established in military warfare and peacetime operations, said Don Jarzynka, C-130 production branch chief.

"The C-130 can do things the faster, smaller aircraft just can't do," said Jarzynka. "They (jets) can't take off and land on short runways, and they can't go in low and deliver cargo and troops. That's the advantage of the C-130."

Col. Greg Postulka, C-130 system program office director, agrees.

"The mighty Herc has been carrying troops and everything they need to fight a war to the front lines since the '50s," he said.

Postulka believes that with modernization efforts under way, the Herc will last another 50 years.

Calling the weapon system the "SUV of airlift," Postulka said the aircraft operate throughout the Air Force, serving Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and theater commands. The aircraft is primarily used by Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard to fulfill a wide range of operational missions.

Both basic combat delivery and special mission versions of the aircraft perform a wide variety of roles including airlift, gunship duty, arctic re-supply, infiltrations, extractions, aeromedical missions, aerial spray missions, and firefighting duties for the U.S. Forest Service and natural disaster relief missions.

There are more C-130s than any other cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory. The Hercules fleet includes 22 models and 700-plus aircraft used by eight major commands at 60 bases, as well as 600-plus aircraft for 23 foreign allied countries.

"Besides just moving bullets and beans, the C-130 is a highly versatile and flexible platform that has been modified to conduct several special ops missions," said Postulka. "These aircraft and the professional brave crews who fly them fight the war every day. The Air Force will be modifying more combat delivery C-130s into special ops aircraft soon."

The special operations fleet includes diverse platforms such as the AC-130H and U gunship. The gunship, with its 105 mm howitzer and 40 mm Bofors automatic cannon on its left side, flies primarily at night performing surveillance and illuminating troop movement. Jarzynka said the gunship can destroy an entire compound on its own.

As multifunction aircraft, the Combat Talon I and II's mission is to fly in low, pop up and drop out troops, cargo, bombs, leaflets and other airdrop items. Jarzynka said the Talons are low-level fliers that go in, map out an area, drop fliers and deliver supplies to the field.

The MC-130E/H conducts infiltrations into areas to re-supply or extract special operations forces and equipment. Those missions are conducted in adverse weather, at low level and over a long range.

Postulka said modernization of 519 combat delivery and special mission C-130s with the Avionics Modernization Program will bring about some great changes.

"We will have new capabilities, greater reliability and new life in our vital but aging fleet," he said.

The C-130 Avionics Modernization Program is expected to double the C-130 work force and keep the weapon system flying another 30 years.

The work force that maintains the C-130s can not sing the praises of the aircraft enough.

"Many of us who work on C-130s at Robins are fanatical about the aircraft," said Ken Franklin, C-130 avionics technician. "The F-15s (Eagle) are fast, the C-5s (Galaxy) are huge and the C-17s (Globemaster III) are new, but every time a Coast Guard C-130 makes a rescue, a special ops C-130 engages a target or a slick C-130 drops a 21,000-pound (bomb), we all feel proud that we contributed something to make it all possible."

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