AFA NEWS: Tests show conversion of C-130s to amphibious aircraft is ‘feasible’
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NATIONAL PORT, Maryland — Approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and the Air Force Special Operations Command wants the ability to land planes on all surfaces.
Recent testing has indicated that the plan to add amphibious capability to MC-130J — the AFSOC version of the Lockheed Martin-built airlifter — “will be operationally viable for us,” AFSOC Commander General James Slife said Sept. 20.
Through digital engineering and wave armor testing, the command has developed a design for a kit that can be added to airlifters in the field, giving them the ability to take off and land on water, Slife told reporters at the Air and Space’s annual conference Forces Association in National Harbor, Maryland.
“The wave tank tests we’ve done so far show that the design works exactly as we expected,” he said.
Now the command just needs funding to move forward, he said. If the budget for fiscal year 2023 is passed unchanged, AFSOC expects the funds to be available for some demonstration flights in calendar year 2023, he said.
Current operational environments are driving the need for amphibious aircraft for special operations. “What they all have in common is water,” he says.
AFSOC wants the ability to get Navy special operators like the SEALs where they need to go, Slife said.
“The US has a comparative advantage in maritime capabilities for special operators — surface and underground capabilities — in our naval component,” he said. “These are areas of comparative advantage over the United States. So the question is, how can AFSOC help get these Naval Special Warfare operators closer to their targets and extract them where they need to be extracted?
In terms of logistics, Slife said the plane doesn’t have to go to a depot to add the equipment needed to convert the plane into an amphibious.
Unit staff can do this on site.
“This [is] field installable, “but it’s not like you’re putting it on and taking it off for a specific use. It will take a little time,” he said.
As far as purpose-built amphibious aircraft go, Slife doesn’t see it with the current budget constraints. Very capable seaplanes are being built for the commercial market, in all shapes and sizes, “but we won’t be involved in a new aircraft procurement program anytime soon,” although there would be an option to lease such a platform, he added.
“I think that’s probably an area of growth, but I don’t think it’s going to be a single aircraft procurement program any time soon,” he said.
Subjects: Air Force News