C-130 News

C-130 Hercules News

317th AW completes first C-130J Max Endurance Operation with external fuel tanks

April 20, 2024 (by 2nd Lt. Cyan Brown & TSgt. Dana Cable) - The 317th Airlift Wing achieved a significant milestone on April 20, 2024, by becoming the first unit in Air Mobility Command's history to complete a C-130J Max Endurance Operation (MEO) equipped with external fuel tanks. This operation, dubbed Hazard Leap, highlighted the wing's extended range capabilities and established a new standard in operational endurance.

Airmen from Dyess AFB pose for a group photo after successfully completing a Max Endurance Operation at Andersen AFB on April 20, 2024. This operation, dubbed Hazard Leap, highlighted the wing's extended range capabilities and established a new standard in operational endurance. [USAF photo by 2nd Lt. Cyan Brown]

During the operation, one C-130J Super Hercules from the 40th Airlift Squadron embarked on a remarkable 26-hour and 33-minute single-aircraft mission to Andersen AFB, Guam, with only one fuel stop in Hawaii, demonstrating the C-130J’s ability to operate for extended periods without stopping.

The MEO from Dyess to Guam showcased the wing's ability to rapidly deploy into the Indo-Pacific Area of Responsibility and be ready to immediately conduct any follow-on missions.

To accomplish the mission, the team split into two fully augmented crews. Capt. Anna Santori, a pilot from the 40th Airlift Squadron and Hazard Leap crew, provided insights into the benefits of the extended range. She explained, "The external tanks have new capabilities for us, allowing us to fly farther without refuelling. It gives us about 17,000 pounds of fuel, which translates to roughly four extra hours of flying."

In May 2023, the 317th Airlift Wing became the first C-130J unit in Air Mobility Command to experiment with external fuel tanks. The integration of external fuel tanks not only enhances the Wing's ability to reach remote locations in a single hop but also provides the flexibility to carry extra fuel to offload for the joint force in austere environments.

The purpose of the MEO, as Santori described, is to fly as far as possible with the external tanks, refuel only once, minimizing ground time and maximizing range. The preparation involved careful planning of the flight route, analyzing wind patterns, and devising contingency plans for unforeseen circumstances such as thunderstorms or modified flight paths.

Reflecting on the significance of completing Hazard Leap, Capt. Santori emphasized its implications moving forward. "Knowing that we can rapidly deploy and reach distant theaters within a shorter time frame, expands the expectation of C-130s," she stated.

"The successful completion of Hazard Leap is a testament to our team's dedication and the remarkable capabilities of the C-130J Super Hercules," said Maj. Alex Leach, Mission Commander and 40th AS assistant director of operations. "This operation set a new standard for our squadron and this airframe; it serves as a stepping-stone for future missions."

Building on the success of Hazard Leap, the 317th AW is now preparing for Exercise Hazard Spear, scheduled to run until May 4, 2024. This exercise is set to be a pivotal training event for the Wing, with a focus on declaring Initial Operational Capability for multiple Accelerated Mission Sets in the Indo-Pacific region and validating its ability to rapidly integrate with the joint force.

In tandem with HAZARD SPEAR, the 317th AW will integrate with the 4th Marines in Guam and support Marine Aircraft Group 24 and MWSS-174 during Exercise BALIKATAN 2024 in the Philippines. This collaboration underscores the Wing's commitment to strengthening interoperability with allied and partner forces in the region.

As the 317th Airlift Wing prepares for Hazard Spear, the Maximum Endurance Operation showcases the vital role of continued innovation and excellence, bolstering regional operations and demonstrating readiness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Courtesy of 7th Bomb Wing

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