USAF Demos Max Endurance Flight of Super Hercules With External Fuel Tanks

The US Air Force has completed a max endurance flight test of a C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft equipped with external fuel tanks.

The trial demonstrated the capability of the modified plane to refuel once during endurance deployments, maximizing the service’s flight range and reducing ground time during missions.

In the test, the Air Mobility Command’s 317th Airlift Wing flew a 40th Airlift Squadron C-130J from Dyess AFB in Texas to Andersen AFB in Guam.

The flight took 26 hours and 33 minutes with only one fuel stop in Hawaii.

Ahead of departure, the command conducted critical flight planning, wind pattern analysis, and contingency preparations for unexpected conditions, including modified flight routes and thunderstorms.

The test concluded with the 317th AW showcasing its operability to accomplish a rapid, single-aircraft mission into the Indo-Pacific while sustaining readiness for follow-on missions, the agency wrote.

Support ‘as Far as Possible’

According to the US Air Force, the 317th AW was the first C-130J segment under the Air Mobility Command in 2023 to experiment with external fuel tanks.

The air force said that developing these components in line with maximum endurance requirements supports the command’s efforts to “fly as far as possible” while carrying extra fuel to offload for joint forces in remote locations.

The flight made the 317th Air Wing the first Air Mobility Command group to fly an external fuel tank-equipped Super Hercules in the command’s history.

Limited flight operations begin at Nigerien Air Base 201
The first U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules to take off from Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. Image: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer

“The external tanks have new capabilities for us, allowing us to fly farther without refueling,” 40th Air Squadron Pilot Capt. Anna Santori explained. “It gives us about 17,000 pounds of fuel, which translates to roughly four extra hours of flying.”

“Knowing that we have the capability to rapidly deploy and reach distant theaters within a shorter time frame, expands the expectation of C-130s.”

‘New Standard’ Established

Following the Dyess AFB demonstration, the 317th Airlift Wing will prepare for a military exercise in Guam in which it will declare the initial operability capability of its multiple accelerated mission sets in the Indo-Pacific region.

Simultaneously, the unit will validate its mission sets to rapidly integrate with the joint force. Part of this application will be demonstrated in coordination with the 4th Marines to support participating teams on a parallel exercise in the Philippines.

“The successful completion…is a testament to our team’s dedication and the remarkable capabilities of the C-130J Super Hercules,” 40th Airlift Squadron Mission Commander Maj. Alex Leach stated.

“This operation set a new standard for our squadron and this airframe; it serves as a stepping-stone for future missions.”  

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