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
"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
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."