April 7, 2009 (by Capt. John Ross) - Ramstein's first J-model C-130 Super Hercules aircraft was welcomed by a capacity crowd April 7 during an arrival ceremony.
Gen. Roger A. Brady, USAFE commander, flies a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to Ramstein AB on April 7, 2009. Serial required. [USAF photo by A1C Staci Miller]
Tail number 8601, the first of 14 J-models in production for the 86th Airlift Wing, also served as the first Air Force Super Hercules permanently stationed at an overseas air base.
"This aircraft allows us to continue and to enhance the role of airpower, and especially airlift, in this vital part of the world," said Gen. Roger Brady, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, who personally piloted the new aircraft into place during the ceremony. "We bring a lot to the fight in overseas contingency operations, including humanitarian operations around the world. We also focus on building partnerships, and the C-130 J greatly increases our ability to do that."
The other 13 aircraft on order from Lockheed Martin are scheduled to arrive over the next 12 months. The E-model C-130s currently at Ramstein, whose average age is 40 years old, will either retire from service or be moved to other units that are still flying the aircraft.
Though the J-model brings new technology and capabilities to the 86th AW, there is a sense of nostalgia over the long and impressive careers of the old E-models. Ramstein's 37th Airlift Squadron, known as the "Bluetail Flies," has operated them for the past three decades at two separate bases.
"I am awed by the remarkable things the proud Airmen of this storied [37th Airlift] squadron have done to optimize an amazingly versatile aircraft," said Brig. Gen. Bill Bender, 86th AW commander. "The Bluetail Flies have become the standard-bearers for tactical airlift."
The ceremony also served as a ribbon-cutting for a new $22 million dual-bay hangar, which can serve as a maintenance facility for two J-models simultaneously, or hold one C-17 Globemaster. Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, 3rd Air Force commander, and Col. Don Bacon, 435th Air Base Wing commander, presided over the opening of the new facility.
Long known as the "Air Force's workhorse," the C-130 has a worldwide reputation as a tough, rugged airlifter or attack aircraft that operates in a wide range of remote or austere locations. The J-model C-130, the newest of the Hercules family, infuses modern technology into the recognizable shape of older models of the C-130, creating an aircraft that flies farther, faster, at higher altitudes, carrying a greater payload of people or equipment with better fuel efficiency, while still maintaining the aircraft's hard-nosed reputation.