C-130J continues to show versatility- Low Cost ISR solutions!

So, I was enjoying a brief hooah video featuring the Sumos of VMGR-152, a Marine Corps squadron equipped with the KC-130J Hercules transport.

You’ll see most of the stuff you’d expect from a Hercules squadron- flying from austere strips, dropping special ops guys out the back, dropping loads by parachute, and some horseplay while on liberty. Good stuff. But right before the end of the video, there were a couple of brief shots of a Herc with pods hanging from the paratroop doors toward the rear of the aircraft. And so, I shot a message to Spill, asking if he knew what they were. Of course, he did, and it’s a pretty interesting bit.

Whatthehellis that.

Here’s the hooah vid:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-2p4NgKzE4]

A novel means of adding surveillance sensors to the C-130 quickly and with minimum modification is on display here at the Dubai Air Show. Highland Integrated Surveillance Systems (HISS) can replace the paratroop door on the Hercules with a roll-up door that includes a mount for sensors that retracts for takeoff and landing; a large bubble window and collapsible workstation for an observer/operator; and an equipment rack.

The Special AirBorne Mission Installation and Response system (SABIR) has already been fitted to some U.S. Navy C-130s when flying special operations missions, and to a U.S. Marine Corps C-130 in Japan. The system is attracting interest from the UAE and other air forces, according to HISS president and CEO Roger Smibert. The mount can take EO/IR sensor balls, small radars, SIGINT or electronic warfare equipment. When extended, it provides 360-degree coverage. An ejection tube for sonotubes or other SAR stores is also included. Two people can fit or remove the SABIR system in only one hour.

The modified door does not affect the C-130’s cargo-carrying capacity in any way. Moreover, a C-130 operator might fit SABIR doors to both sides of the fuselage to provide a multi-sensor capability. According to Smibert, the installation overcomes the weight limitation and turbulence issues of a nose-mounted sensor installation. The maximum payload is 400 pounds, and maximum sensor length is eight feet. The installation costs $1- to $1.5 million, exclusive of the payload.

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One of the best attributes of the C-130, and most successful transports, is their versatility, their adaptability. We’ve mentioned before the Marines have taken to tasking certain of their fleet of KC-130J’s with a roll-on palletized gunship/precision strike capability under the program Harvest Hawk.

Now it turns out the Marines (and apparently the Navy as well) are using the SABIR pod system to provide its vanilla KC-130s with significant Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability.

SABIR, or Special AirBorne Installation Response system, is a series of pods that can be mounted on the troop doors of a KC-130J. The pods themselves can carry a variety of different sensors, such as imaging infrared, radar, day TV camera, or low light imaging.

A palletized, roll on/roll off operator station controls the pods and the display. More importantly, the an extensive drop in kit for communications allows the feed to be share in real time with other users, on board or off. For instance, VMGR-152 used another palletized kit to convert the tanker transport to a Direct Air Support Center, providing immediate on scene coordination and command and control for air support missions in support of Marines on the ground.

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And of course, the utility of such a system is limited primarily by the inventiveness of the users.  Potential missions that pop into my head immediately include ISR for ground troops, IED detection, Search and Rescue, Maritime Patrol, Fisheries Protection, support to law enforcement, environmental monitoring (such as tracking an oil spill or mapping a wildfire), and Blue Force tracking for friendly ground forces.

A further example of the versatility of the mighty Herc can be seen here, where Lockheed Martin is proposing a modified variant to the United Kingdom as a Maritime Patrol plane.

RNAS YEOVILTON, U.K. — Lockheed Martin is to offer a U.K-specific variant of its SC-130J Sea Hercules to Britain, as the U.K. looks to re-generate a maritime patrol capability.

The company says it could convert the U.K. Royal Air Force’s existing fleet of C-130J airlifters into SC-130Js, reducing procurement costs and technical risks, company officials told Aviation Week on the eve of the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day.

Bring The HEAT Podcast

OK, I got the (most of) the technology figgered out. And a quick call with Spill actually generated some real content.

You can stream it here.

[archiveorg Podcast62615 width=640 height=30 frameborder=0 webkitallowfullscreen=true mozallowfullscreen=true]

Or you can download the mp3 here.

(Right click and chose “Save Link As”)

If there’s sufficient interest, we’ll look at iTunes and Stitcher as well.