Home » Aviation » Congress Accelerates Funding for New Navy C-130T Propeller Replacement Program


Congress Accelerates Funding for New Navy C-130T Propeller Replacement Program

A C-130T Hercules from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 62 (VR-62) takes off from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, Sept. 11, in support of operations on the first day of Valiant Shield 2012. US Navy Photo

The Navy will regain a significant heavy airlift capability a bit sooner than anticipated, after lawmakers accelerated funding needed to get the service’s fleet of C-130T aircraft back in the air.

The four-engine turboprop C-130T aircraft is the backbone of the Navy’s supply and personnel transportation system. However, 80 percent of the Navy’s fleet of 24 C-130 aircraft remains grounded due to a problem with the propellers, after the service halted their operations in July 2017.

Outfitting the fleet with a new propeller system designed to improve performance will cost about $121 million and was originally listed on the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2019 unfunded priorities list — a supplement to the Navy’s budget request to Congress that outlines additional spending needs, if more money were to be appropriated for defense spending.

The fleet has been grounded since a fatal 2017 Marine KC-130T crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor. The Navy and Marine Corps have not made a direct connection between findings of the crash investigation and the grounding of the Navy C-130Ts, and the investigation and root cause analysis of the Marine Corps crash has not yet been finalized and publicly released.

But lawmakers chose to fund the propeller replacement program even earlier, in the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill recently passed, after Navy officials spoke to the readiness challenges created by having the bulk of the C-130T fleet grounded in a March 20 House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing, according to Capt. Christopher Scholl, director of the public affairs office for the Chief of the Navy Reserve.

The Navy relies on reservists to crew its fleet of C-130T and C-40A cargo planes. With so many C-130 aircraft grounded, the Navy turned to its fleet of reservist-operated C-40 aircraft, which are operating at 100 percent capacity, Vice Admiral Luke McCollum, chief of the Navy’s reserve force, said during the hearing.

McCollum estimated that replacing the propeller systems would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

Fat Albert, a C-130T Hercules with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, performs during the 2015 MCAS Miramar Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. US Marine Corps Photo

This timeline appears too long a wait for the Navy’s most famous C-130T, the Blue Angels flight demonstration team’s “Fat Albert.” The team is set to retire its C-130T support cargo plane, and Naval Air Systems Command announced on March 23 its intent to purchase a used British C-130J through a sole source contract with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.

“The Government requires a suitable replacement aircraft, which must be delivered in an expeditious manner, to avoid a gap in logistical support of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron,” the announcement states as justification for the purchase.

  • Paul 2

    When Congress steps ahead of the service or agency (any issue):
    a. the service is dragging feet or slow rolling a response to an issue
    b. an influential congressional districts(s) will benefit from resolution
    c. both (a) and (b)

    • SDW

      Smells like pulled pork to me. Are these propellers made by Ham Spam in Connecticut (the eight-blade NP2000) instead of Dowty (the six-blade R391)?

  • RunningBear

    “McCollum estimated that replacing the propeller systems would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.”
    ….USN might consider joining the USAF in propeller systems upgrades for C-130H, saving time and costs.
    🙂

    • Michael Christensen

      They do not use the same propeller, prop control, or valve housing as the H model. They are specific to the T model, I worked on these C-130’s when I was active duty.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    We need an LCC-130…. Littoral Combat Cargo-130.

  • Leroy

    I wonder if they are talking about replacing the current props with the eight-bladed NP2000 propellers seen on the E-2D?

    • Rocco

      Well that should of happened already as the Airforce already has them!! …I was in the very C-130T that crashed last year at an airshow! Crushed my heart when it was on the news & it’s home base!

      • Leroy

        I read LM tested them on the 130, so I’m guessing yes. Why would you put the old 4-bladed Hamilton Standard on them? The NP-2000 is a much more modern prop. Not sure if it has the same pulling power though. I think it does, but I’m not a prop guy.

        • Rocco

          Agreed ! That’s what I was referring to the new design!

          • Leroy

            Yes, how did I miss; ” … as the Airforce already has them!!”? Must’a been asleep. Need more Navy-coffee! : )

          • Rocco

            ☕️here it’s on me!😉

      • RunningBear

        “The goal of these evaluations is to collect data and confirm the increased fuel efficiency, reliability and overall performance improvements gained from the new propellers and upgraded engines. The benefits of the upgrades include shorter take-off roll, improved climb, quieter operations, and lower operating and support costs, according to Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the program office for the test. “With these modifications, we’ll see significant improvements that are needed to ensure longevity and mission flexibility,” said Maj. Leanna Thomas, 153rd AW C-130H pilot. The flight testing will be conducted by 153rd AW and C-130 Combined Test Force aircrews.” C-130H 92-1536 Wyoming ANG.
        🙂

        • Rocco

          Yes well aware thanks! As for looks I prefer the old style!

  • DaSaint

    The Navy and Marine Corps have not made a direct connection between findings of the crash investigation and the grounding of the Navy C-130Ts, and the investigation and root cause analysis of the Marine Corps crash has not yet been finalized and publicly released.

    But listed that the fleet needed propeller replacement in the unfunded priorities list.

    No connection.

    Right.

  • scottled

    Replacing the props on every Navy C-130 will cost $121 million – let’s see, that’s 4 props x 24 birds = 96 props, do the math and it comes to $1.26 MILLION apiece! Just for the propellers, not the engine thingy. Okay, maybe a few spares, too. But Wow, the propeller alone costs about half the price of a complete T-56 turboprop engine! Seems the engine might be just a bit more complex, and take a bit more assembly time and expertise. I won’t mention any aircraft manufacturer’s names here, but really?? And will take “up to 18 months”! Again do the math – A prop change that takes almost 6 days EACH! Not each plane, EACH prop! Close to a month to change the four props on ONE plane! These birds aren’t flying, so it is not a matter of maintaining an OPTEMPO while cycling them through a NARF. Perhaps another reason, say, inexcusable greed, offered up because there has been a Class A mishap that “may” be related. How can someone in a position of authority actually say this and not be ashamed at the rip-off of the taxpayers, and the insult to our ability to see the military-industrial machine in full swing! Apparently the Blue Angels said this is not acceptable. Why don’t we all say the same thing! Food for thought….

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      I just did the same exercise. Guessing they have one guy doing the changes? The cost only makes sense if they certified a new prop design which makes zero sense?

      • Michael Christensen

        It takes at a minimum of five people to change a propeller. One can come off in about 45 minutes, but takes about 90 minutes to put on. Then you have to rig the motor which can take a couple of hours, then do functional checks on it on the ground, then in-flight functional checks. So usually a days worth of work per prop, and if the weather cooperates to let you do the functional check flight (FCF).

        • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

          I was being somewhat sarcastic. 1 million a prop seems insane.

    • Duane

      The constant speed propellers on high performance transport turbine engines are actually a fairly complicated and expensive and sensitive hydromechanical mechanism
      .. that is not like a little fixed pitch wooden or aluminum prop on a Piper Cub.

      • tiger

        Still, 12-18 months to replace, in peacetime? That is glacier slow.

    • SDW

      There is a big difference between program costs and product costs. Uncle Sam, especially in his warrior incarnation, doesn’t know how to buy hardly anything without having thousands of viewgraphs give their all for the cause. The meetings and associated travel, probably cost as much as 1 or even 2 of the propellers. There are also the detailed manuals that need to be produced (after a 10-name list of approvals). The aircraft and engine mods to change prop type are, I bet, bigger line items than the propeller installation. The new propellers are light years more complex than the ones on the beanies worn at NAVAIR. At best I see them costing in the high 6 figures each.

      Forget the “I” part of the MIC, the “M” part alone has enough complexes to keep a dozen psychiatrists going for a decade.

  • Ctrot

    So the C-130T’s have prop that is unique only to it? Why?

    • publius_maximus_III

      Don’t know, Ctrot, but a prop failure would certainly explain the location of the Marine KC-130T’s complete fracture into two pieces (cockpit and cargo) at a point just forward of the wings, at cruising altitude, in clear weather, over MS farmland last summer.

  • Frank Langham

    I cannot understand how or why such a pressing priority should take so long.
    [ ” McCollum estimated that replacing the propeller systems would take between 12 and 18 months to complete.” ]

  • Afs Smith

    I might be wrong, but the picture of the C130 in the story seems to me the be an Air Force C130 and not a navy or marine tanker C130.

    • BusterB

      This time they got it right. Tail code JW represents Fleet Logistics Support Squadron VR-62 flying C-130Ts out of NAS Jacksonville, Fl.

      • Afs Smith

        I stand corrected, thanks for the update. Based on your input I looked up the Navy Reserve squadron that owns operates it, kind of interesting history. Again thanks.

        • BusterB

          Thanks to you I Googled JW so I learned something too.

          • Michael Christensen

            VR-62 moved to JAX in 2009, prior to that they were in Brunswick, Maine, NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts, and NAF Selfridge, Michigan. They moved alot due to base closures. I was stationed with them twice from 1998-2002 and 2007-2009 when they moved. That is why they changed their name to Nomads.

  • SDW

    Forget the seemingly absurd price of replacing the propellers. The much more important question is:

    Why are they continuing to spend money on the KC-130T?

    They should have been put to pasture years ago and mostly were. The remainders are the personal FedEx and Greyhound bus for the admirals and USMC generals that don’t rate a C-40.

    Did everybody note this: “The Navy and Marine Corps have not made a direct connection between findings of the crash investigation and the grounding of the Navy C-130Ts, and the investigation and root cause analysis of the Marine Corps crash has not yet been finalized and publicly released.” The fact that one of the old hens fell out of the sky killing everyone on board should have accelerated their retirement, not their upgrading. The two dozen C-130Ts in the inventory have just been grounded, including their waiting for propellers, but aren’t worth keeping. The DoD can probably salvage the new avionics (required by the FAA–not the Navy) and some other parts. Most of them are ripe to be towed out to a corner of the base and used for fire fighting practice.

    There’s a good reason they are considered “Model Ts”.

  • publius_maximus_III

    The USN stripped former “CPO” Bill Cosby of a previously bestowed honorary promotion in 2014, amid sexual misconduct allegations. I wonder if the Blue Angels will rename Fat Albert, too?