Glancing the Philippine Air Force's Recent C-130 Purchases

The primary discussions here usually covers military hardware that possesses superb firepower that is capable to carry the job of the Armed Forces in terms of eliminating the threats that pose harm to the country's national security and interest while defending the sovereignty and welfare of the whole nation and its citizenry.

In this article, we will discuss specifically a logistics platform that defines the Air Force's capability of airlifting personnel and equipment across the country as obtaining them is essential to keep the country secured in every area and also in deploying necessary resources on areas of concern both in wartime and in peacetime, especially on matters that involve Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response.

Image Source: Jetphotos; website

At the time of this writeup, the reports were made by the state-run Philippine News Agency regarding the acquisition of two more C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft which, in our correction, will augment three serviceable ones in service from the previous five (with one involved in a fire incident) and the other being non-operational where it simply renders this development as replenishment of assets in service.

Also in the discussion are the Philippine Air Force's recent plan to procure five (5) brand new C-130J-30 Super Hercules Cargo Aircraft which are said to be longer than the usual ones that are currently available in the inventory and also to be purchased as brand new as opposed to the two more C-130 acquisition that has just mentioned as it is considered another procurement project within the agency.

These huge cargo aircraft are considered the mainstay of the Philippine Air Force's logistics chain wherein, along with their primary combat utility helicopters such as the UH-1 Huey, Bell 412, and the soon-to-have S-70i Blackhawk, serves as the key component for this service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in terms of transporting necessary military resource across the country.

Given the geographical setup of the nation, having these platforms are essential for rapid deployment of needed troops, equipment, and supplies that is required for assuring the defense of the republic and also in providing any necessary help in terms of keeping the citizenry secured and addressed in times that a situation, both natural and man-made, are wreaking havoc for a typical Filipino's way of life.

The cost of the acquisition involving two used C-130s as provided in the report has amounted to Php 2.5 Billion, of which this was co-financed by both the Philippine Government and the United States through its Foreign Military Financing which renders this deal possible, helping the former acquire this U.S. made equipment on the terms that are preferable to the Philippine Government's desire of boosting the military's capabilities such as for logistics like this one.

On the other hand, the acquisition of brand new C-130J-30s has amounted to Php 37 Billion which at this time can be considered as the largest procurement project that the Philippine Air Force undertakes as of the current date as its number significantly increases the logistics capability that this service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines needed in providing the needed airlift of supplies, military materiel, and troops in the areas needed across the country in the name of national defense.

It is at this development that two plus five more units of C-130 provide that significant improvements in capabilities that the Air Force desire, wherein at this article we will discuss the details regarding the service of such aircraft within the Philippine Air Force through the years which it is still going on up to this very day.


Several of the Philippine Air Force's primary cargo aircraft have originated
from the United States Marine Corps. This one is from the
United States Navy.
(c) "Marco Papa", For reference only.

It is a no-brainer to understand that most, if not all of the C-130s obtained by the Philippine Air Force through the years are procured from the United States in which it has already served prior service in any of the service branches there is within the U.S. Armed Forces such as the United States Air Force or the United States Marine Corps.

Currently, the military branch obtains 1 C-130B which is apparently old and is not surprising with regards to its non-operational status, with 1 C-130H and 2 C-130T currently serving the organization with its fullest capability wherein it will be added to around 5 units if all active platforms are to be collated together plus one if the C-130B managed to get operational once again, totaling six units.

To take note, the recent C-130s that have entered service with the Philippine Air Force came in the form of C-130T variants that have purchased in 2016 under the First Horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program which helped augment the needed logistical platforms at that time as the organization obtains older variants of the C-130 including the one that has burnt in Clark Air Base.

With the Php 2.5 Billion worth of costs covering the recent acquisition of two used C-130s which involves the refurbishment of these military assets to be at its tiptop shape, one can say that it is in itself worth the price in a manner that is second-hand assets are still up to be serviceable within the Philippine Air Force with its fullest capabilities worth utilizing in the transportation of resources across the country.

The purchases of these used platforms still show that it is still useful even with its record of serving with previous armed forces such as those within the United States military wherein the C-130s are still showing reliability in its performance as an airlift platform, not to mention that several air forces across the globe have utilized this platform which makes it ideal for an easier logistics for its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations or MRO.

Also, this procurement comes with an aim that will help the country in mitigating its Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response or HADR measures as its cargo capacity is needed a lot in carrying relief goods in areas of concern at a shorter period of time as compared to the Navy's sealift capabilities which help to cope with the affected citizen's immediate access for their own basic necessities such as food and clothing and eventually paving their way in building shelters and recover once again.

Take note that this is different from the procurement of brand-new C-130s which in itself is a departure from the typical procurement of used platforms that are formerly assets of the United States military, in a manner that it may come with modern subcomponents and larger cargo capacity that is just as needed as these used ones.

C-130J-30 Cargo Aircraft, Royal Danish Air Force, Lockheed Martin.
This is the C-130J-30 Cargo Aircraft used by the Royal Danish
Air Force has a stretched fuselage and modernized
engines. (c) Wikimedia Commons

In a significant move, the Philippine Air Force decided to procure five units of C-130J-30 Cargo Aircraft at a cost of Php 37 Billion which in itself is currently the most expensive project that the service branch undertakes, even before the Multirole Fighter Jet Program which is still materializing slowly yet it is said to be attached on this project with having a project that doubles this brand new C-130 procurement program.

This development will render the total number of units that the Philippine Air Force is set to have for C-130s in the next couple of years increased to 11 units which are seen as sufficient enough for the organization to sustain in terms of utilizing it as having more platforms mean minimized and distributed stretch in utilizing their resources which minimizes the stress on operations and airframe time of the aircraft.

Speaking of longer airframes, it is noted that the Philippine Air Force is not new in terms of operating such type of C-130 aircraft as this organization at one point operated the civilian variant L-100-20 cargo aircraft which is said that it is currently parked on Cebu's Mactan Airbase wherein it comprises the old inventory of aircraft that was obtained as it parked along with other non-operational C-130s there.

Apparently, this project is considered part of Horizon 2's second list of projects for the Philippine Air Force which is different from the Horizon 2 first list or more known as the priority project list wherein it includes two of the branch's two largest procurement projects which are the Multirole Fighter Jets and the Attack Helicopter acquisition projects aside from other projects that are intended to the other branches such as the Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Philippine Navy and the Light Tank Acquisition Project for the Philippine Army.

At a catch, it will be known that the aircraft offered will be adhering to the military specifications that are seen in other militaries that are utilizing the aircraft, which means that it goes with the requirement that is in compliance with the United States Military Specifications and Standards in which the platforms like the C-130J-30 aircraft are designed to satisfy the United States Department of Defense's high quality and reliability of various military assets in its service.

Being in the second priority list comes at a reason as to why it was not discussed deeply until it was published through a mainstream media website which has made known to this news, which in itself is not surprising since this option is the most logical consideration that the Philippine Air Force has made where it came as a priority procurement project of the current administration as it may help the country a lot shall there be (God Forbid) any future calamities or violence that threaten the country and its citizen's way of life.

With the President approving the plan, it may only take a certain amount of time for the Philippine Air Force as well as the Department of National Defense to finalize the deal and have the contract signed after having ironing the terms that have made during negotiations and with that comes to a step that formalizes the timeline up to the delivery of goods by the supplier which is the issuance of notice to proceed.

C-130B, C-130H, Hercules, L-100-20, Mactan, Cebu, Mactan Airbase
Here are the images of older variants of C-130s
that were once active in the Philippine Air Force service.
(c) Photobucket via Philippine Defense Forces Forum 

Just like any aircraft produced in service, the C-130 obtains several variants wherein multiple upgrades and tweaks are being incorporated along the way as technology gets more sophisticated and military requirements have varied to the needs wherein such aircraft, aside from being a cargo-based platform as it is originally designed are also being modified as a gunship (AC-130 Spectre) or as aerial refueling tanker like the KC-130 serving the United States military.

As for the Philippine Air Force, such variant of aircraft consists of older C-130 Bravo and Hotel variants wherein the majority of such version of the aircraft are seen parked in an airbase such as seen above along with the civilian L-100-20/30 cargo aircraft which have longer fuselage than the first two mentioned C-130 variants wherein the C-130J-30 can be considered as a stretched successor of these civilian specified cargo aircraft.

These older Bravo and Hotel Variants preferably delivered throughout the mid-1970s and 1980s wherein there were nine C-130Bs and three C-130Hs delivered at that time as well as having four L100-20s, of which one Bravo and one Hotel variants remain active in service which is being augmented by 2016-purchased C-130Ts which adds it into four active medium-lift aircraft currently in service at the time this article was published.

Aside from these older versions of the C-130 cargo aircraft, the Philippine Air Force have the newer Tango variants in their inventory, of which two were delivered in 2016 and may possibly come with the two incoming units that the service branch is aiming to have, in which may add the number of active C-130s in service to six units before another acquisition project that will add five more to the inventory.

It shows that the Philippine Air Force obtained decades of experience in operating, maintaining, and repairing such legendary platforms in a sense that it will be easier for the organization to absorb the newer C-130J-30 cargo aircraft, with some minor skills worth to be added in terms of operations and maintenance as this variant sports newer avionics and engines, among others.

C-130H, C-130J, Philippine Air Force, Lockheed Martin, AFP Modernization Program
Here are some capability comparisons between these two aircraft of different
variants belonging to the same family wherein it is attributed to the
variations to its specifications. (C) Lockheed Martin

The specifications do vary among the variants of the C-130 family of cargo aircraft wherein different sets of upgrades or enhancements on its overall capability are being incorporated along with the time that it is being utilized since its inception through the first units produced on its assembly line down to its current production and operations by several air forces across the globe.

With varying specifications came with varying sets of capabilities just like the ones shown above depicting the climb performance of a legacy C-130H that the Philippine Air Force still operates recently and the more modern C-130J-30 that the military branch aspires to have in the service, rendering these newer platforms as a cost-efficient one that a must-have for military operations as it decreases the burden of accruing operating expenses as well as the maintenance to keep it upright active in its duties.

With regards to powerplants, the C-130B was powered by Allison T-56-A-7 turboprop engines with 4,200 propeller shaft horsepower whilst the C-130H was powered by Allison T-56-A-15 turboprop engines with 4,591 propeller shaft horsepower, and the C-130T powered by Allison T-56-A-16 turboprop engines wherein both may share spare components that help older aircraft in the Philippine Air Force logistically source engine subcomponents from a single manufacturer whereas the newer C-130J-30 will be powered wither by Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 with 4,691 propeller shaft horsepower or by GE-Dowty Aerospace R391 which has two-blade propellers more than the older Allison engines.

Talking about its dimensions, the C-130 family of cargo aircraft shares the same dimension especially with its wingspan of 132 feet 7 inches or around 40.38 meters while varying with the length of the fuselage especially in the case of the C-130J-30 with around 112 feet 9 inches or 34.37 meters as opposed to the 97 feet 9 inches or 29.61 meters of any legendary C-130s in the inventory such as the Bravo, Hotel, and Tango variants that the Philippine Air Force currently obtains in active service.

Speaking of its maximum load, a C-130J-30 cargo aircraft is, as quoted directly in Lockheed Martin's website, is capable of carrying "8 pallets or 97 litters or 24 CDS bundles or 128 combat troops or 92 paratroopers, or a combination of any of these up to the cargo compartment capacity or maximum allowable weight". 

Meanwhile, a C-130H or any legendary C-130 aircraft (also included the C-130T) as quoted directly from the website of the United States Air Force is capable of carrying "6 pallets or 72 litters or 16 CDS bundles or 90 combat troops or 64 paratroopers, or a combination of any of these up to the cargo compartment capacity or maximum allowable weight" which gives an idea that the C-130J-30 is capable of carrying more cargo than what the Philippine Air Force C-130 obtains.

To sum it up, the overall capability that the current C-130 inventory that the Philippine Air Force has is at 24 pallets or 288 litters or 64 CDS bundles or 360 combat troops or 256 paratroopers, or a combination of what consists of its capacity which will be added more by two more used C-130s and five C-130J-30s which totaling 52 pallets or 626 litters or 144 CDS bundles or 796 combat troops or 568 paratroopers, or any combination of these which suffices enough the numbers that the organization needs for air logistics chain.

Map: Here are the primary users of the C-130 Hercules
Cargo Aircraft of different variants across the Globe.
Obtained via Wikimedia Commons

To add supplementary information regarding this cargo aircraft platform, it is also worthy to add more historical background and the story starting from its first development up to the present day in which the C-130 is considered a mainstay cargo aircraft for several countries across the globe that currently obtains them.

It all started in 1951 where, as detailed on this webpage on Lockheed Martin's website, shows that the United States Armed Forces at that time needed a dedicated military transport that is capable to deploy troops and equipment in poorly-equipped and short airfields especially with the Korean War at that time gets escalated (Fact: The Philippines has participated in the conflict when they deployed the PEFTOK or the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea to aid the South against the invading North Koreans and the Chinese).

During that time, the United States Air Force Tactical Air Command issued a specification for a new medium cargo aircraft in which Lockheed Aircraft Corporation won the tender wherein they presented the YC-130 prototypes with its first flight took place on August 23, 1954, three years from the conceptualization of this project that may soon provide the needed airlift capabilities across nations of the world for the years to come.

The first production C-130 was flown on April 7, 1955, and since then produced thousands of such aircraft ranging into multiple variants in which it still serves reliably on the present-day even with the ever-sophisticated technologies come at play in a sense that the latest variants of these cargo aircraft like the C-130J Super Hercules are equipped with the latest technology that makes it more capable than ever.

For the legendary variants that the Philippine Air Force operates presently, let it be noted that the C-130B was first produced in November of 1958 with 230 units delivered and the C-130H was produced in March of 1965 which has a total of 1,202 units were delivered. From here, it is not surprising that the older variants such as the C-130B may end up retiring from active service as there is still one unit being utilized, citing the shortage of such aircraft that may get addressed eventually as discussed along with this article.

70 countries currently operate C-130s in its service, with five of those being in Southeast Asia (namely the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore) with the ex-country of South Vietnam (now part of the People's Republic of Vietnam) being one of the former users of such aircraft which, logistics-wise, is fully beneficial as there are multiple sources of spare parts to gather at to keep these assets fully operational.

With half a century worth of its service since its inception in the early 1950s down to the current number of users that are still utilizing the C-130 cargo aircraft, it is a nice thing for the Philippine Air Force to keep on adding the number of these assets in the inventory as its production is still taking place, with sophisticated technology getting integrated while minimizing the worries on its maintenance and repairs as other nations obtain the needed spares for its continuous duty.

Here is a C-130A production aircraft which is a bit different from the
current C-130 especially with its blunt nose derived
from its prototype  YC-130 design.
(C) Lockheed Martin.

With the current numbers that the Philippine Air Force obtains about its active C-130 fleet, it is just as worthy and fully justifiable that more assets of such type of aircraft are needed to cope up for the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines' airlift capabilities as these platforms come with immediate deployment of necessities - from equipment to troops at significant numbers at areas concerned to national security.

Its performance is also proven in terms of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response or HADR as it provided the needed relief goods that are intended for those affected by natural calamities such as in the case of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013 wherein various C-130s of different nations, including the United States were involved in the aid.

As the country still pushes on its counterinsurgency efforts and its improvement of external, minimum credible defense posture, adding more airlift platforms for the Philippine Air Force means a lot for the country's immediate efforts of providing the needed support for the troops that keeps the whole nation safe from various threats that are harming the peace and security of the citizenry.

It is worth recalling that the Philippine Air Force currently utilizes older C-130s in its fleet with the recent ones being the C-130Ts obtained four years ago, with plans for more units are in place through the procurement of two more used C-130s which augments the existing ones, plus adding more brand new C-130J-30s which are basically enlarged variants of these cargo aircraft that is capable to carry more troops, equipment, and supplies onboard.

To take some notes, the sub-unit of the Philippine Air Force that handles airlift as its function goes with the 220th Airlift Wing which also the ones that operate the older C-130 cargo aircraft along with the newer EADS C-295 medium aircraft which came with three units and are in service alongside Fokker F-27 transport aircraft and new NC-212i light lift aircraft.

As this aircraft still being produced recently and is still being operated by multiple users from multiple countries of the world, this may show that the C-130 family of cargo aircraft will continue to serve its purpose for the years to come, in which the Philippine Air Force can maximize its investment on such type of aircraft as its geographical setting makes airlift essential to the logistics chain of the Armed Forces of the Philippines aside from the sealift vessels of the Philippine Navy like its Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks.

Hence, it will be an interesting development to see regarding the procurement of seven (two used and five brand new) C-130s into the Philippine Air Force's 220th Airlift Wing wherein such addition of aircraft will significantly provide that airlift capability that this service branch desires at, at the effort that will help the country cope up with both of its internal and external defense postures as well as helping an affected community to recover from the destruction that mother nature may bring.

(c) 2020 PDA.

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