The 103rd and 143rd fly together

  • Published
  • By TSgt Tamara R. Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

East Granby residents are familiar with the sight and sound of the two-ship C-130H formations that fly in and out of Bradley Air National Guard Base. However, they may have noticed something slightly different about one of the formations that flew recently.

On a particularly rare occasion, Bradley’s 118th Airlift Squadron took a break from routine training and teamed up with the 143rd Airlift Squadron to fly “H” and “J” model C-130s together in a five-ship formation.

“For them to come and fly with us was very cool, because you have the different variations of the C-130,” said Lt. Col. Mark Boyer, 118th Chief of Standardizations and Evaluations. “There is a lot more that goes into it than our normal two or three-ship that we fly.”

Since the introduction of the first C-130 in 1954, the aircraft has come to be known as the workhorse of the military. C-130s are used worldwide to perform a variety of tasks, such as cargo drops, refueling and humanitarian aid. The C-130J Super Hercules, flown by the 143rd, is the newest model of the C-130. The unit, based in Quonset, Rhode Island, was the first to fly the C-130J in combat in 2004. Though the J-model is the only C-130 model currently being produced by Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics, some Air National Guard units, like the 103rd, still fly the H-model. Flying “H” and “J” model C-130s together in a formation presents a unique set of challenges due to the differences in the two aircraft.

“The biggest challenge is coordinating with the different air speeds and the different techniques that the airplanes use,” said Boyer. “They also have different publications that they go by.”

The C-130J features improvements over earlier models, including the capability to fly farther at a greater speed and take-off and land in a shorter distance. For comparison, the C-130J can fly up to 417 miles per hour at 22,000 feet while the C-130H can fly up to 366 mph at 20,000 feet. Crew requirements for each aircraft also differ; the C-130H requires a minimum crew of five, with two pilots, a navigator, engineer and loadmaster. The C-130J needs only three crew members, two pilots and a loadmaster.

Flying a five-ship C-130 formation is advantageous because it allows for more cargo to be dropped in a smaller drop zone (DZ) as compared to a two-ship formation or one that utilizes larger cargo aircraft, such as the C-17.

“Mass [equipment or personnel] on the DZ is why you would do a five-ship instead of a two-ship,” said Maj. Matthew Deardorff, 118th Airlift Squadron pilot. “You essentially get 150 percent more on a five-ship than a two-ship on the same size drop zone. A C-17 can carry a lot more than a C-130, but they’ll need a longer DZ. If you have multiple C-130s, they can drop just as much, if not more than a C-17 on a smaller drop zone.”

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the five-ship flight was the unique training opportunity that it provided for drill-status members of the 103rd Airlift Wing who perform military duties on a part-time basis. According to Deardorff, the training contributed to a greater breadth of experience for part-time members.

“There’s a challenge to getting part-timers to maintain proficiency, so the training we do, like the five-ship, was a great opportunity for us because we don’t get to do that very often,” said Deardorff.

The primary goal of conducting joint training using two different aircraft models was to simulate real-world operations, which often take place in joint environments that require multiple units and systems to work together to accomplish a mission.

“If we were to go fight a different war, we would be expected to know how to fly in formation with them [C-130-Js] to achieve the goal,” said Deardorff. “Interoperability with the J-model is probably the biggest takeaway that we got from the training. They have slightly different systems. Being able to work the two systems together, we can achieve a common goal, which that night, was to conduct formation air drops.”