April 26, 2019 (by Eamon Hamilton) - High-speed internet on six of the Royal Austalian Air Force’s (RAAF) C-130J Hercules will provide Defence with increased flexibility when deploying on operations.
RAAF C-130J #A97-448 from 37 Sqn is seen August 31, 2017 fitted with new Ka-Band SATCOM antenna and suite. The trial was conducted through support from industry partners in Airbus Group Australia Pacific, Inmarsat, Honeywell, and L-3 Communications, as well as Defence's own Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group. [Photo by CPL David Gibbs, © Commonwealth of Australia, DoD]
One Hercules was fitted with Ka-Band Satellite Communications antenna in 2017, which permits broadband connectivity for those on board.
Beginning in late 2019, the first of an additional five aircraft will be fitted with this system during scheduled heavy maintenance at RAAF Base Richmond.
Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) William Kourelakos, Commander Air Mobility Group, said the system would provide increased flexibility and awareness for crew and passengers.
"This will help bring the Hercules well and truly into the 21st Century, and allow it to better work within a fifth-generation Air Force," AIRCDRE Kourelakos said.
"Even after 60 years, a RAAF Hercules is often one of the first aircraft on the scene during a crisis, and up-to-date information is critical for our people when they step off the ramp."
The RAAF became the first Air Force to fit the Ka-Band SATCOM system to the C-130J Hercules when it began trialling its applications in 2017.
This Hercules – called the ‘Jericho Demonstrator' – has explored its applications during local mission rehearsal exercises and humanitarian airdrop activities in the Pacific.
"Crews and passengers can undertake complex mission planning en route to their destination, stream video of their mission back to a headquarters, or receive it from another node," AIRCDRE Kourelakos said.
"There's significant potential for the Hercules to serve as a tactical Command and Control platform, combining its range and loiter with its ability to airdrop or operate from austere airstrips."
Army Captain (CAPT) Ian Carter, Ground Liaison Officer with No. 37 Squadron, said SATCOM connectivity would be equivalent to having broadband internet for embarked forces.
"Having half the Hercules fleet fitted with this system provides greater assuredness of capability-boosting technology being available for embarked Defence units," CAPT Carter said.
"The RAAF is interested in understanding the interoperability implications this system could have for Forces and Special Operations Command units, whether it be used for deploying forces or sustaining them on operations."
The RAAF's entire fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules was fitted with a slower speed L-Band SATCOM system beginning in 2015.
This provided Hercules crews with global voice and data communications, greatly increasing their situational awareness and flexibility when on tasks.