View Full Version : U.S. C-130Js Are Not Combat Ready

08-01-04, 06:41 AM

U.S. C-130Js Are Not Combat Ready

By Paul Connors

More than eight years after the U.S. Air Force issued the initial contracts to procure the new and upgraded C-130J from Lockheed Martin, none of the aircraft now in use by have been certified for combat or other operational missions.

The Department of Defense Inspector General, in a review of the service’s oversight of the C-130J program obtained by several news media organizations last week, slammed the Air Force for poor management of what was supposed to be a commercial procurement requiring little in the way of modifications. The DoD IG’s office accused the Air Force’s Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Marvin R. Sambur of failing to provide the procurement program with “effective oversight.”

This negative report is the second major criticism of Air Force acquisition plans this year. The other program receiving negative attention is, of course, the much-maligned proposal for the Air Force to lease 100 modified Boeing 767s as aerial refueling tankers for more than they would cost to purchase outright.

The C-130J, a derivative but supposedly improved version of the C-130 Hercules family of transports, was billed by Lockheed Martin as a significantly improved version of the rugged and reliable airlifter. Lockheed Martin claims that the “J” model can carry 128 troops (almost 40 percent more than older models), has more powerful and efficient Rolls Royce engines, and features computerized systems that eliminate the need for a navigator and flight engineer. Original crew sizes of five could be reduced to just three: a pilot, co-pilot and loadmaster.

Problems with the C-130J have plagued delivered aircraft in every squadron that has received them, including active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Marine Corps KC-130Js used for aerial refueling.

Earlier this week, several military officials confirmed that the delivered airplanes have not passed several vital readiness tests, thereby preventing their use in combat air assaults, psychological operations, hurricane monitoring or air refueling. Despite these failures and almost non-existent utilization rates, the Air Force has continued to make program progress payments to Lockheed Martin.

While the American taxpayers, through the Air Force, continue to pay Lockheed Martin for aircraft that don’t work as designed and are unavailable for use, two weather squadrons in Mississippi, as well as other general purpose, airlift, air refueling and psy ops squadrons in California, North Carolina, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have been forced to use older aircraft to carry out their assigned taskings.

In cases where older aircraft are no longer available, missions for U.S. Central Command have suffered negative impacts or have not been carried out at all. These were just some of the damning statements made in the DoD IG report signed by Assistant Inspector General Mary L. Urgone.

The first Air National Guard unit to receive the C-130J, Maryland’s 175th Wing, has been unable to certify its aircraft as mission ready. This failure is now public, despite the fact that the wing took possession of its first “J” models as far back as 1999 and 2000.

At Cherry Point MCAS, Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron 252’s C-130Js have been plagued by refueling pods that do not work as designed, the IG report found. Marines assigned to the squadron reported that they were forced to modify pods from older aircraft for use on new airframes. The “J” models delivered to the Marines at Cherry Point 18 months ago are still not available for operational use.

What is particularly vexing about the program is that the C-130J was sold to the Air Force in the first place as a commercial aircraft requiring little or no further modifications. Despite sales to the Air Force, Marine Corps and several foreign air forces, including the Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Danish Air Force, Lockheed Martin has not yet succeeded in selling any aircraft to commercial users. Since the program was first launched, purchase prices for U.S. buyers have risen steadily from $33.9 million in 1995 to almost $62 million today.

The IG report also cited 33 outstanding deficiencies with the airplane that are considered capable of causing “death, severe injury, major loss of equipment or systems, or directly restricting combat or operational readiness.” Other problems plaguing the aircraft include inability to meet cargo and maximum range requirements, inadequately developed software, insufficient onboard maintenance diagnostics and anti-missile protection systems. The existing deficiencies mean that the new aircraft cannot participate in night formation flying, dropping paratroops and supplies, search and rescue missions or hurricane watching.

While marketed as a commercial aircraft capable of being modified, Lockheed Martin, according to the IG report has been completely unable to deliver one aircraft that meets Air Force or Marine Corps specifications. Given the lack of input from foreign military users, there is no way of knowing whether the Australians, British, Italians or Danes have been able to put these expensive transports to good use, either.

Unlike purely commercial purchases of such major capital items by non-military entities, the U.S. government has a very powerful weapon in its arsenal to persuade non-performing contractors to get back in line. That weapon is the ability to withhold both progress and final payments for goods, services and/or materials that do not meet the specifications stipulated in the prime contract. From information detailed in the DoD IG report, it is quite evident that Lockheed Martin has failed to do so.

The 117 aircraft contracted for by the Air Force and Marines will cost the U.S. taxpayers $7.45 billion dollars. Based on all of the negatives associated with this program, that is money that could be better used in other areas of defense-related procurement.

The Air Force disputes the findings of the report and is joined in this view by Lockheed Martin. Calling it a “troubled program” is a polite fiction that the Inspector General uses to inform us that the program has been mismanaged since its inception and that countless dollars have been wasted for a transporter that has yet to carry out its assigned missions.

The defense procurement process has never been known for its cost-effectiveness or maximization of dollars spent for goods delivered. But the 50 airplanes currently in the Air Force and Marine Corps inventories have cost the Treasury more than $2.6 billion. With defense funding being stretched to the limit, it is long past time when Lockheed Martin’s avarice should have been challenged and curtailed.

The men and women who will fly these airplanes deserve the finest weapons systems we can provide. To date, the Air Force and Lockheed Martin have failed in their responsibility to the fighting men and women who need these airplanes.

Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at paulconnors@hotmail.com. © 2004 Paul Connors. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.



08-01-04, 09:25 AM
Glad to see I'm not the only one who thiks we're getting the weenie on some of this 'new & improved' stuff. Let's see. Hmmm. We have Apaches that haven't exactly shined very brightly in real combat ops, tankers that can't refuel, Ospreys that have become a huge black hole of $$ sucking, a highly touted, but not very effecient Stryker brigade, and aluminum hulled warships that can be put out of commission by a couple of terrorists in a rowboat-just to name a few.

What a mess.

The bright side: A U. S. Marine rifle squad, carrying over 200 years of kick ass attitude, rolls across Iraq in antiquated amtracs, then, flown into a hot Iraqi LZ on a 40 yr old CH46, with a Cobra gunship overhead. Tried & true. Use what works folks. How hard can it be to see that? Dance with the ones that brung ya.

08-02-04, 01:00 AM
ooooooooooohrahhhhhhhhhhhhh you said it all greybeard..