November 5, 2021 (by SSgt. Joshua Horton) - Two new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft are being readied here to join the Kentucky Air National Guard fleet as maintainers apply distinctive artwork to the planes’ exterior paint in preparation for their debut in Louisville this weekend.
An Airman from the 123rd Maintenance Group observes the freshly-applied tail art of one of the Kentucky ANG’s newly acquired C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Channel Islands Air Guard Station in Port Hueneme, November 3, 2021. The aircraft is replacing the C-130H Hercules, which has been in service to the Kentucky ANG since 1992. [ANG photo by TSgt. Joshua Horton]
The aircraft are scheduled to fly into the Kentucky Air Guard Base in Louisville at 9 a.m. Saturday during a welcome ceremony that marks a new era for local aviation, said Col. Ash Groves, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group.
The two transports are among eight that the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing will gain over the next 11 months to replace eight aging C-130 Hercules H-model aircraft, which were built in 1992. The last of the H-models departed Louisville in September to make way for the J-models.
Of the six remaining aircraft pending arrival in Kentucky, three will be sourced from existing Air Force inventory, and three are being built especially for the 123rd Airlift Wing by Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia, Groves said.
The C-130J Super Hercules is the latest version in the Air Force inventory, with modern instrumentation, more efficient engines and a stretched fuselage for additional payload capacity that supports eight pallet positions in comparison to the H-model’s six.
According to Maj. Chris Boescher, a pilot for the 165th Airlift Squadron who will be flying one of the aircraft back to Kentucky, the 123rd Airlift Wing is uniquely suited to make the most out of the aircraft’s updated capabilities.
“It’s faster, it carries more cargo and it’s much more fuel efficient,” Boescher said. “It gives us a lot more reach and brings us into the next generation. Our unit is pretty unique with our co-located Contingency Response Group and Special Tactics Squadron in addition to where we are geographically and the facilities that we have.
“We’re not only able to bring in the new airplane, but we can utilize it more effectively because we have so many resources around us and so many mission sets.”
Another factor that made a strong case for the basing of J-models in Kentucky is the unit’s stellar reputation, said Lt. Col. Randall Hood, deputy commander for the 123rd Operations Group.
“There’s no doubt that we’re one of the premier airlift units in the entire Air Force,” Hood said. “The Kentucky Air National Guard is always leading the way. We’re always there to volunteer, to help, and we’re always in the fight. Wherever we go, we have a reputation of excellence, so it carries through the force. They know what we’re capable of.”
“To me, it seems like a continuation of the legacy that this unit has built up,” Boelscher said. “I came from active duty, but there are units around that you just know about. Kentucky is one that’s always had a great reputation for getting things done — any theater, any time, any place.”
Among the artwork being applied to the aircraft is the Air National Guard emblem, the United States flag, a decal denoting the 123rd Airlift Wing’s 19 Outstanding Unit Awards, and a brand new tail flash — featuring block letters over a blue background with fleurs-di-lis adorning the sides.
Prior to the conversion to the J-model, the unit flew the C-130H for almost 30 years. Hood said the switch was bittersweet, but added that the new aircraft will allow the wing to flourish even more.
“With the leadership of this wing, the leadership of the group and squadrons, of the chiefs, the Airmen and the officers we have on this base, I have no doubt that we will continue to achieve greater and greater heights in the Kentucky Air National Guard,” he said.