C-130J Hercules – Force Multiplier

familiar sight in the skies over RAAF Base Richmond and the township of Windsor west of Sydney: a C-130J of No 37 Squadron overflying the air base.

Under the broad umbrella of Plan Jericho, the Air Force’s roadmap towards a networked and 5th Generation future, Air Mobility Group (AMG) is increasing the capabilities of its C-130J-30 Hercules fleet.

In conjunction with earlier enhancements made under the Jericho banner – including the installation of a Link 16 Tactical Data Link – recent initiatives are aimed at increasing the utility of the Hercules as a force multiplier and a functioning node in the digital network in its own right. One initiative currently being tested is installation of underwing fuel tanks, intended to increase aircraft range but also enhance the Defence Force’s ability to establish Forward Arming and Refuelling Points (FARPs) for Army helicopters and even M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks.

Others enhancements include the installation of a Ka-Band Satellite Communications (SATCOM) capability to enhance situational awareness. Recent trials using this capability, together with Link 16, have demonstrated the C-130J’s ability to perform in the Command and Control (C2) role. Together with the ongoing capability enhancements conferred by regular software upgrades, future initiatives may well include the installation of a targeting pod, further increasing situational awareness on board the aircraft and the flow of information across the battlespace. These concepts are being trialled on a C-130J Hercules (tail number 448), known within AMG as the ‘Jericho Demonstrator’.

This aircraft is planned to be on display at the 2019 Australian International Airshow at Avalon in late February. FARP – Force Multiplier The use of one aircraft to deliver fuel to forward elements on the ground is nothing new, whether to resupply of fuel bladders established at a FARP or directly from the donor aircraft to a number of receivers. Indeed, the establishment of the ‘Desert One’ forward base during the abortive US ‘Eagle Claw’ hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1980 was a FARP of sorts, albeit an ultimately unsuccessful one.

The expeditionary philosophy of the US Marine Corps has led to the Marines adopting the FARP principle, in the establishment of shore-bases close to a beach-head. This greatly reduces the length of each fighter or helicopter mission, which would otherwise have to return to the deck of an amphibious warfare vessel many miles out to sea. FARP is one of the key principles of the Marines’ air power projection.

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