November 30, 2015 (by TSgt. Emerson Marcus) - For the second time in its history the 152nd Airlift Wing has upgraded its entire fleet of C-130 Hercules aircraft just as the U.S. Air Force seeks total fleet modernization in the face of nearing federal upgrade deadlines.
Col. Karl Stark, commander of the 152nd AW, applies a new “High Rollers” tail flash on the recently-acquired C-130H3 #93-7311 on October 30, 2015. The 152nd AW is set to acquire all eight of its upgraded C-130s by early next year. It’s the second time in the unit’s history that the fleet has been upgraded since the unit transitioned from F-4 jets to C-130s in 1996.[Courtesy photo]
“It is a significant upgrade and it should help increase mission capability with more reliable equipment,” said Col. Karl Stark, commander of the 152nd.
By early 2016, the 152nd — known as the “High Rollers” of the Nevada Air National Guard — will have acquired each of its six C-130 H3 models and two H2.5 models. These models are about a decade newer with nearly 10,000 fewer flight hours than the unit’s previous C-130 H2 models manufactured more than 30 years ago. The incoming models also include new wing boxes.
Along with increased longevity as a result of fewer flight hours, the newer models — manufactured in the late-1980s and 1990s — include upgraded engines with digital flight instruments and fuel gauges. The unit’s previous aircraft included analog instruments. The majority of those aircraft are being dispersed to units around the country to make room for the new aircraft in Reno.
The upgrade comes just as the U.S. Air Force seeks modernization of its C-130 fleet. The Air National Guard accounts for 40 percent of the Air Force’s total C-130s at locations in states around the nation. But Federal Aviation Administration mandates demand new avionics beginning in 2020. This will leave several units without upgrades necessary to enter air space, including the Nevada Air National Guard’s aircraft.
Among upgrades needed are new radios, a digital flight recorder and enhanced air traffic alert system.
“They want to modernize the C-130 fleet, but which ones are you going to do it to?” said Senior Master Sgt. Cameron Pieters, a flight engineer with the unit. “Are you going to do it to the oldest ones or the newest ones? For the Nevada Air National Guard to get ahold of the newer ones, that’s definitely a good thing.”
Several of the aircraft have already arrived and been adorned with a revised tail flash that updates the font for the “High Rollers” moniker.
“It’s exciting for our Airmen to work with more advanced technology,” Stark said.
This marks the 152nd’s second C-130 upgrade in its history. The unit transitioned in 1995 from a tactical reconnaissance mission with F-4 aircraft to an airlift support mission with C-130s. The first C-130s that arrived in Reno in 1996 were E models. Some of those aircraft were manufactured in the 1960s. In 2002, the 152nd received H2 models, primarily made in the late-1970s and 1980s.
For more than 60 years, the Lockheed Martin-manufactured C-130 has earned the reputation as the workhorse of military aircraft, adept at dirt strip takeoff, troop dropping and supporting humanitarian aid missions.
The 152nd Airlift Wing includes about 1,000 Airmen stationed at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. Hundreds of Nevada Guard Airmen have deployed overseas to Southwest Asia and around the world for tactical air delivery missions and expeditionary combat support with the unit’s C-130s. Additionally, the aircraft is capable of executing domestic missions for cargo transportation, search and rescue and emergency response support during natural disasters.
“It’s bittersweet,” Pieters said of having to say goodbye to C-130s he’s worked on for more than a decade. “For me, I started out working on the E models. I got to know and love those airplanes. To watch them go away, it’s kind of sad.”
“But we’re going to extend the longevity of our fleet based on airframe hours alone. That’s good for the Nevada Guard and it’s good for the community.”