In August, the first air-to-air refueling fights between Spanish Air Force Eurofighters and United States Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130J Hercules aircraft took place in Spain.
The Eurofighters were from Esc 111 (squadron), part of Ala 11 (11th Wing) based at Morón Air Base in Southern Spain. The ops with the tanker were part getting to the squadron’s evaluation of the operational capabilities in October. The USMC Hercules tankers are already at Morón as part of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa.
The Spanish Air Force is planning more tanker meetings with other units and aircraft, to increase the interoperability of its and allied armies.
The upgrade of five Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport and tanker aircraft of the Argentine Air Force is slowly progressing with L-3 Communications in the United States. Rockwell Collins announced this week it has been contracted for flight avionics by L-3.
“Argentine Air Force pilots will experience greater situational awareness and communications capabilities with the new avionics onboard these aircraft,” says Troy Brunk, vice president and general manager of Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins. The Rockwell Collins Flight2 avionics system will provide the Fuerza Aérea Argentina C-130/KC-130 aircraft with new communications, naviagion, surveillance and air traffic management systems required for today’s airspace operations.
Included in the avionics upgrade is a full glass cockpit with new primary flight displays, Required Navigation Performance / Area Navigation flight management system with High Altitude Release Point/Computed Air Release Point precision air drop software. Additional equipment includes an autopilot, communication and SATCOM radios, APN-241 precision ground mapping radar integration, navigation sensors and surveillance systems including Traffic Collision Avoidance System, Terrain Awareness and Warning System and digital map.
The first aircraft integration and installation being performed by L-3 Platform Integration, the prime contractor for this upgrade program, is at its facility in Waco, Texas. The remaining four aircraft will be upgraded at the FAdeA modification facility in Cordoba, Argentina, with L-3 support.
Despite the official US State Department announcement of the upgrade contract in October 2011 speaks of C-130Hs, the Fuerza Aérea Argentina flies a mixture of types, comprising of one KC-130 tanker aircraft and four Hercules dedicated airlifters of the L-100-30, C-130B and C-130H types.
A tight budget is somewhat hampering US Marines and US Navy expeditionary training in practicing to defend the strategic very important Northern Marianas Island in the Pacific these days. During Exercise Forage Fury III at Guam and Tinian there, the Marines-led forces can train on preparing helicopter landing zones only. Larger airplanes – like the KC-130J Super Hercules planned to be put into action – have to stay at bay, which basically means less fun and probably a bit of a disappointment for many troops.
About 1,300 service men/women and supporting personnel of the US Armed Forces started Forage Fury III on 24 September 2014. Tinian is the satellite island right off the coast of the larger and better-known Saipan – all part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and together with Guam one of the most militarized US areas in the world.
“The exercise has a heavy emphasis on tactical aviation and aviation ground support to further develop expeditionary combat capabilities in the Marianas Island Range Complex,” according to a USMC statement. The exercise main asset is the Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. It’s normal base is MCAS Iwakuni in Japan.
Part of the original plan was to build an austere landing zone for a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft on Echo Runway at Tinian, according Capt. Kevin M. Wheeler, the actions officer for FF III and the aviation ground support detachment officer in charge with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, MAG-12.
“Just like in real life, plans change,” said Wheeler. “The runway repairs were too much to handle within our budget. So, at this point, we had to change it over to helicopter operations.”
The US Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific, is the primary helicopter squadron using the 7,000 by 500 feet runway cleared by Marine Wing Support Squadron 171’s heavy equipment operators.
One of the main missions of MWSS-171, apart from building expeditionary runways, is to protect Marines before, during and after the building process.
While at the small island of Tinian, the Marines also improve local roads and support other projects to help the community and keep the infrastructure at a good level.
Forager Fury III is scheduled till 6 October 2014.