After more than a year of major repairs and maintenance, the U.S. Air Force helped return to operational service the first of five C-130 Hercules aircraft to Nigeria January 21, 2011. Seventeenth Air Force (Air Forces Africa) is orchestrating the capacity-building activity with its partner nation, which includes an extensive maintenance process to reconstitute their fleet. In February 2009, the Nigerian government requested assistance from the U.S. to reconstitute five of their eight C-130H aircraft to support peacekeeping operations on the continent, said Lieutenant Colonel David Mackenzie, 17th AF’s deputy director of the Strategy, Plans, and Programs directorate. The first aircraft then went through an extensive process called Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM), and was readied to be accepted back into the Nigerian fleet. To help with the process, 17th Airmen joined with a team from the 118th Air National Guard Unit, Tenn, and Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center C-130 Program Office. Together, they partnered with their Nigerian counterparts. “The Nigerians and U.S. military members were very eager to partner up to improve their Air Force, and specifically their C-130s and training aircraft,” Colonel Mackenzie said. “The U.S. crew flew to the depot facility in Lisbon, Portugal, and went over the process to reintegrate the aircraft back in Nigeria’s hands after being gone for more than a year.” The process, he explained, included $9.2 million of periodic depot maintenance, engine overhauls, propeller overhauls, and cockpit and avionics refurbishments. U.S. Air Force members provided the Nigerians a breakdown of what went on during the maintenance process and how to maintain the aircraft afterward. This included upcoming maintenance requirements, preventative maintenance and scheduling, and bookkeeping. “We’re just helping them out with the whole acceptance of an aircraft from PDM, and then how to maintain it once they get home,” said Lieutenant Colonel John Sapp, 118th ANG Stand Evaluations pilot. “We also showed them how to go through a [Functional Check Flight] to make sure that everything is working properly.” U.S. military C-130s go through an extensive PDM process every five years, and with the Nigerians becoming well versed with the practice for their own aircraft, the West African nation gained valuable experience for future PDM deliveries, Colonel Mackenzie explained. Ultimately, a healthy, well-maintained C-130 fleet means increased capacity for Nigeria to take part in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian relief and increased security. “Both sides learned a great deal through this partnership which will help make the following three PDM efforts smoother, more productive and hopefully quicker,” he said. “As a result of this effort, 17th AF and US Africa Command will move forward with plans to help continue the partnership and ensure the Nigerians are able to logistically support their fleet in the years to come.”
The C-130 is a very versatile aircraft capable of a range of missions in both peace time and war. A2A refuelling tanker, gunship, airborne assault, research, aerial firefighting, humanitarian aid, modified bomber and a lot more. Its rugged, capable of landing on short unprepared runway and it fact it has the record for being the largest aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier. There is just about everything the Hercules could do, except air combat. Its used by about 70 nations worldwide. Propellers are more efficient thrust devices and serves the operational profile of the C-130 better. Comparing with the 747, we can say that the Hercules is about half the size. The “new” one must the be the J model, called the Super Hercules, has a newer engine, six bladed propellers, 40% more range, about 20% faster and a shorter take of distance.
Here is a video about the C-130 and its capabilities.