The RAAF’s C-130J Hercules could have more range, more time on station for missions such as search and rescue and more fuel offload capacity at forward bases thanks to new external fuel tanks.
External fuel tanks were carried on the RAAF’s older, much less fuel-efficient C-130E and C-130H model Hercules, which were retired in 1999 and 2012 respectively, but were not considered a requirement for the newer C-130J due to its much more powerful and fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines.
But with a growing requirement to refuel ADF and coalition vehicles and helicopters on the ground at forward bases direct from tactical transport aircraft, two C-130Js are being fitted with new external tanks, which have four tonnes of fuel capacity each, dramatically increasing the amount of fuel the aircraft could offload without compromising its own reserves.
“Extra fuel is useful during forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) operations, where the crew land and offload fuel to another aircraft, vehicle or storage tank,” Commander Air Mobility Group AIRCDRE William Kourelakos said.
“The fuel tanks can also extend range or endurance during certain missions, allowing us to be more persistent in an area such as during search and rescue missions.”
The first C-130J fitted with external tanks will be deployed to Guam for the joint Operation Christmas Drop exercise conducted with US forces where food, clothing and toys are delivered to outlying communities in the Marshall Islands.
“Some of these missions are to islands more than 2,000 kilometres from Guam, where there’s very limited options to divert in the event of an emergency,” AIRCDRE Kourelakos said.
“Carrying that extra fuel would make some aspects of mission planning easier, allow crews to deliver to more island communities, or increase the amount of time loitering at a drop zone.”