Canadian C-130Js to fly to Afghanistan by the end of the year

C130J Super Hercules

The first of 17 stretched C-130J models of Hercules aircraft the Harper government ordered nearly three years ago at a cost of $1.4 billion is to begin flying combat support missions in war-torn southern Afghanistan by the end of the year, several months earlier than originally planned.

“It’s a generational leap,” Maj. Mark McCullins said of the new aircraft. “Having a J model is like having an extra engine on the Hercules which could prove to be a critical advantage in Afghanistan.”

The new Hercules, which can fly faster and further and carry about 25 per cent more cargo than the aircraft it is replacing, may also be a help to recruiters trying to attract the computer generation, said McCullins.

“It should appeal to kids who want to fly because it has a fully digital cockpit and a head’s up display that is similar to that of an F-22 fighter,” he said, referring to the most sophisticated jet flown by the U.S. air force.

A few of the current fleet of Hercules already have an astounding 45,000 hours on their airframes. However, because of their age, nearly two-thirds are out of service at any time for maintenance. The J models, which have distinctive bent black propellers, are expected to much less maintenance than the aircraft they’re replacing.

Six of the new tactical airlifters are already being tested at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario. The order, from Lockheed Martin, is to be completed by the end of 2012.

The E models, which were purchased in the 1960s, are to be retired. The H models, which are somewhat younger, are to be assigned to search-and-rescue duty and in-air refuelling duties in Canada.

The Vancouver Sun

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