Military News

Friday, May 15, 2015

317th AG frames new C-130J TTPs

by Senior Airman Peter Thompson
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

5/15/2015 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 317th Airlift Group here has developed training, tactics and procedures for C-130Js flying within contested, degraded or operationally constrained environments or CDOs.

With modern-day technology, equipment that sends or receives an electronic current or signal can potentially be affected by an enemy. The new method of navigating the aircraft allows pilots to manually correct their navigation systems, keeping them on their flight path.

The aircraft's predecessor, the C-130H Super Hercules, required a navigator who determined positioning using visual recognition of landmarks and distinguishable topography. The crews would rely primarily on navigators using charts and stopwatches to determine locations for executing airdrops and finding destinations.

The upgraded aircraft's improved GPS and navigation systems eliminated the need for the navigator, relying on the new instruments available to the pilot and co-pilot. However, it is possible that an enemy could deny the aircraft's ability to use GPS, which would cause the navigation system to become much less accurate.

Recognizing this, the 317th AG is aggressively practicing and developing the procedures to employ the C-130J without using GPS and without a navigator.

"We determined this method of navigating is vital to today's operations and the way we plan for future contingencies," said Col. Jeffrey Brown, 317th Airlift Group commander. "We took it upon ourselves to develop this program for our aircraft to optimize its usability in degraded scenarios."

Without GPS, the plane's navigation system will "drift", meaning that where the system thinks it is gradually drifts away from where the aircraft is actually. The new method of navigating requires pilots to pinpoint their location on a pre-determined route and update instruments to reflect their current position.

Before the 317th AG could begin testing new methods in their aircraft, a group of pilots began in the base's C-130J simulator. There, they worked to find practices that did and didn't work. One of the largest challenges was developing techniques to navigate and airdrop from high and low altitudes, each having their own set of complications.

"When we are flying low-level, we can visually recognize where we are and input it into our system," said Capt. Sam Dunlap, 39th Airlift Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. "When we are at high altitudes or have poor visibility, we use radar to map the ground. You find something on the ground, a bridge for instance, and tell the aircraft that is your actual location."

Once proficient in the simulator, aircrews began practicing at low levels using visual updates. Within weeks, aircrews were able to directly contact a target with two of five training bundle airdrops, the furthest landing within 60 yards.

"It was possible because of the TTPs we developed," Dunlap said. "They allowed us to be very accurate with our position updates and our crew resource management which essentially controls our timing and pacing while we are flying."

High-altitude scenarios required the use of radar to determine the aircraft's location. A two-dimensional image is made when radar scans the ground below the aircraft. Aircrews then decipher the image and determine their location in conjunction with pre-determined coordinates.

The B-1B Lancer, flown by the 7th Bomb Wing here, already uses some of the same technology the 317th AG is translating for its platform. The two units, who often work together during cross-platform and joint exercises worked together to improve C-130J pilot's understanding of reading in-flight radar displays.

"We integrated with the B-1 navigators, who run the radar systems on the aircraft, to learn how they interpret radar imagery," Dunlap said. "Although this is new for our aircraft, the combat air forces have been using these same techniques for a while and they are very good at it.

The group recently completed the first draft of the new syllabus for C-130J pilots. Once completed, it will be proposed to AMC with the intent of having the new information being integrated into training for C-130J pilots across the Air Force and other service branches.

"The new TTPs cement the C-130Js position as a ready and reliable asset for combatant commanders," Brown said. "The knowledge gained by the 317th AG will help to ensure the aircraft's ability to execute global airpower anywhere and at any time."

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