The Ubiquitous C-130 Might Change into the U.S. Army’s Solely Seaplane

Certainly one of many C-130 seaplane designs into consideration (AFSOC)

Sep 21, 2022 6:52 PM by

The Maritime Government

In any battle with China, U.S. forces will want a option to fan out within the island archipelagos surrounding the South and East China Seas. Marine Corps warfighing doctrine for the Western Pacific requires a extensively distributed, maneuverable power of small models stationed at distant atolls. However scattered outposts will face a resupply problem, particularly if these expeditionary bases are too small to host a touchdown strip, as a result of the U.S. army now not has the float planes and seaplanes that enabled its Pacific attain within the Second World Conflict. 

That’s about to vary, in response to Air Drive Particular Operations Command (AFSOC). The command’s mission is a bit totally different – delivering and extracting groups of SEALs, Army Rangers and different elite models for clandestine missions – but it surely has the identical want. AFSOC has sought a capability to the touch down on water for years, and after an extended interval of improvement, it’s getting its want within the type of a bolt-on float bundle for the venerable C-130.

The C-130 has been in service because the Eisenhower administration, and it has seen use with the militaries of greater than 60 nations. Its sturdy airframe is used for tough airfield cargo operations, firefighting, hurricane searching, aerial refueling, long-distance SAR and – for AFSOC – covert power insertion and extraction. Through the years, it has landed and brought off from a wide range of unbelievable areas, together with the deck of an plane provider. (It nonetheless holds the report for largest and heaviest plane to function from a provider.) Nevertheless, it has by no means been delivered in a seaplane variant, although producer Lockheed has proposed it on-and-off a number of occasions through the years. 

AFSOC has been working with a workforce of engineers from the Air Drive Analysis Lab to design and just about check a bolt-on float equipment for its MC-130J Commando II plane, a extremely tailored and specialised aerial tanker with an insertion/extraction position. Because the want for a touchdown strip is restrictive and may expose mission groups to added threat, AFSOC want to have the choice to function from the water. 

“This functionality permits the Air Drive to extend placement and entry for infiltration, exfiltration, and personnel restoration, in addition to offering enhanced logistical capabilities for future competitors and battle,” mentioned Lt Col Josh Trantham, AFSOC Science, Programs, Expertise, & Innovation Deputy Division Chief. “Seaborne operations provide almost limitless water touchdown zones offering vital flexibility for the Joint Drive.” 

By opening up new touchdown areas wherever there may be sufficient flat water, AFSOC’s fleet may extra readily disperse, making it tougher for enemy forces to focus on a number of plane at one time. The float design will combine touchdown gear in order that the tailored C-130s can nonetheless use shoreside runways. 

A speedy prototyping program weighted closely on digital design strategies ought to produce a flying demonstration mannequin by the tip of subsequent 12 months, the workforce mentioned. If profitable, this system might create an amphibious functionality that could possibly be tailored for different providers’ C-130Js – for instance, the U.S. Coast Guard’s HC-130J lengthy vary SAR plane. 

“We consider [the float system] will be capable to be utilized by our sister providers, allies, and companions on varied C-130 platforms,” Trantham mentioned. “Additional, increasing the operational use of an amphibious plane alongside different progressive instruments will present much more advanced dilemmas in future battlespaces for our strategic rivals.”

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