Australia received its first C-130J-30 in 1999
Upgrades to the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF's) 12-strong fleet of C-130J-30 tactical transports are being progressed in parallel with changes in aircrew training intended to provide the government with a broader range of combat-focused options.
Air Commodore Warren McDonald, commander of the RAAF's Air Mobility Group (AMG), told IHS Jane's on 13 January that "inefficient and airline-like" pilot training was being rationalised and accelerated, while a start had been made on honing the tactical capabilities of the C-130Js. This will be followed by unlocking additional tactical options for the AMG's six C-17A Globemaster III heavy airlifters.
"I don't want to have to train up to an exercise or train up to an operation like we've trained to go to the Middle East. My aim is that we'll be ready to go whenever we're called, and provide a greater option set to government," he said.
Installation of satellite communications in the first C-130J to augment its existing high frequency radio link should be completed in February, followed in June by installation of the Northrop Grumman Dynamic Retasking Capability (DRC) - fundamentally a secure beyond line-of-sight datalink.
Air Cdre McDonald said the intention is to have both capabilities fitted across the C-130J fleet by the end of 2016. He will also be proposing the early installation of DRC in the six C-17A Globemasters.
Meanwhile, approval has been received for installation of a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) test kit on a C-130J later in 2015 with embodiment across the fleet by 2017-18, although this could be fast-tracked by a year, said Air Cdre McDonald.
CommentThe increased emphasis on tactical, as opposed to straightforward, cargo-carrying tasking for Australia's C-130J-30s reflects the need for the fleet to be available for a wider role during a time of high operational tempo for the AMG.
It also coincides with funding being made available to better fit the C-130J-30s for more tactical options - the first notification of a possible sale of LAIRCMs for the fleet was first published by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in 2008.
The anticipated arrival in Australia in March of the first of 10 C-27J Spartan tactical airlifters is also adding impetus to the AMG's vision of commonality in training, and the ability in-theatre to seamlessly roll palletised cargo from a C-17A to a C-130J to a C-27J.