December 6, 2017 (by A1C Savannah L. Waters) - A crew assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron crossed the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve a brand new C-130J Super Hercules from the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company production facility, in Marietta, Georgia, November 29th.
USAF C-130J #15-5831 takes off from the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company production facility in Marietta, Georgia on November 29, 2017 or route to the 37th AS at Ramstein. [Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company photo]
The C-130J, an upgraded version of the C-130 Hercules legacy model, adds 15 feet to the fuselage and increases usable space in the cargo compartment. The new aircraft replaces one of 14 C-130J's in Ramstein's fleet, helping avoid potential problems with the Air Force's aging fleet.
"I can't overstate the importance and significance of rebalancing our fleet," said Col. Joseph Wenckus, 86th Airlift Wing vice commander, "Replacing older aircraft rotationally allows us to balance out the number of older and newer planes in any given location, which strengthens the force."
The concept, according to Air Mobility Command, is called "Enterprise Fleet Management" and allows extended aircraft life by rotating aircraft amongst units across the Air Force. Locally, this means the new aircraft replaces a C-130J that was transferred to Yokota Air Base.
Some aircraft are more vulnerable due to the operational environment or requirements driven by mission demands, shortening the lifespan of any given aircraft, said Wenckus.
"With missions, required maintenance, and wear and tear more spaced-out across all Air Force units, we are able to better maintain Ramstein's tactical airlift fleet and continue to serve two combatant commands," said Wenckus.
According to Lockheed Martin, the aircraft is built on the legacy of the basic C-130 design, however, the C-130J features a large, unobstructed, fully-pressurized cargo hold that can be rapidly reconfigured for carrying troops, stretchers, passengers, or airdrop of troops and equipment into battle zones.
The aircraft also features upgraded avionics, improved lift capacity, superior climb performance, and long-range landing field capabilities.
"The avionics are astronomically better in this aircraft than the older legacy model," said Maj. Kyle Bucher, 37th AW C-130J pilot. "It has improved performance, it's faster, burns less fuel, carries more, and requires fewer crew members."
The versatile aircraft is used across the Air Force for medical evacuation, humanitarian, airdrop, cargo delivery, firefighting, aerial refueling, aerial spray, and arctic support missions.
With continuous production longer than any other military aircraft, the C-130J has earned a reputation as a workhorse ready for any mission, anytime, anywhere.
The 37th AS provides air support to EUCOM and AFRICOM, ensuring tactical airlift assets and mission readiness for the theatre, said 1st Lt. Jane Marlow, 37th AW C-130J pilot.
"The thing I love the most about the Herc is the mission support role that we play," Marlow said. "It's the sound of home. Whether it's picking personnel up from deployment, bringing beans and bullets, or dropping Christmas care packages to deployed locations, I believe the C-130J is the best aircraft in the Air Force."
The crew traveled across three countries and three states within the U.S. in one week to pick-up Ramstein's new aircraft, having the unique opportunity to tour Lockheed's warehouse facility at their headquarters in Marietta.
"This mission is one of the things of legend," Wenckus said. "I'm over the moon, and honored to be a part of the process."