DROP ZONE: The Future of Tactical Airlift

The joint operating environment will undergo many changes in the next 10-20 years. The proliferation of disruptive technology will further enhance an adversary’s anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) strategies. The C-130 will also be reaching the end of its life expectancy in this same timeframe. Conflicts that occur in this future operating environment will share common logistical and basing problems that require the air mobility enterprise to provide the Joint community with alternatives to the existing supply chain model.

On Monday, Major Matt Andrews will argue that the tactical airlift platform that replaces the C-130 must have vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) capability in order to be able to effectively contribute to multi-domain operations in the future joint operating environment. He will discuss why the Air Force should develop and organic V/STOL tactical airlift capability, how existing V/STOL programs can be matured, and recommend additional requirements for the C-X platform. Major Andrews is a C-130 Weapons Officer and currently serves as AETC’s Combat Systems Officer Program Chief.



    1. Jon, thanks for the question. I’ve put a call into the author to make sure I don’t lead you astray on his assumptions. That said, the H-models – particularly the H1’s and H2’s built in the 1970s and 1980s, are likely reaching the last 10 to 20 years of their utility to the active force (it is my understanding that the last AD H-models are transitioning to the ARC and ANG in the immediate future). The C-130J’s, depending on any number of factors, could continue to fly over a longer horizon. However, Sandra Erwin’s article “For Army’s Future Combat Vehicles, Flying by C-130 No Longer Required” indicates that in 2005 the Army began considering the C-130 of limited utility in many instances, particularly in its later-cancelled Future Combat System (FCS) program. As Herk drivers, we must consider the possibility that our users may be outgrowing the platform. I’ll add any expanding remarks after further discussion with the author. – Mark

  1. From the author: Jon, take a moment and read through the March 2014 Air Force Magazine article “The Once and Future Mobility Force” by John A. Tirpak. This article provides valuable background regarding the aging MAF fleet, as well as where senior leaders envision the future of air mobility over a 20 or so year horizon.

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