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Proof to pass the torch

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As the 910th Airlift Wing prepares to upgrade its aging C-130H Hercules fleet to the newer C-130J-30 Super Hercules model, testing was needed to determine if and how the new airframe could perform the Department of Defense’s only large-area fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects, pest insects, and undesirable vegetation and to disperse oil spills in large bodies of water.

That test began on March 21, 2024, when for the first time in the history of DoD aerial spray, the 910th AW’s unique electronic modular aerial spray system was installed into a J-model from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The test was passed on March 25, 2024, with a successful spray application using water at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio.

“This is a huge win for Youngstown (Air Reserve Station),” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Wiesen, an aerial spray system maintainer with the 910th Maintenance Squadron who assisted with the test. “The future of our base is the J-model and we needed to prove our spray systems could continue the mission on the new airframe.”

To make it happen, the 910th Maintenance Group worked hand-in-hand with members of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex C-130 System Program Office to emulate the future of DoD aerial spray. Together they adjusted the J-model’s electrical system to power the EMASS and installed spray-modified troop doors to accommodate the spray booms.

The newly modified J-model’s maiden voyage was then piloted by a qualified Air National Guard - Air Force Reserve Command Test Center aircrew from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, while 757th Airlift Squadron loadmasters operated the EMASS on board.

“We’ve known H-models for 20-plus years here,” said Master Sgt. Ethan Sanchez, a spray-qualified loadmaster with the 757th AS. “So us getting the J-model here and verifying our aerial spray system worked on it, I think, shines a light on our ability to adapt to a new airframe and bring our spray mission to the next level with that aircraft.”

To confirm the EMASS’s capability and compatibility aboard the J-model, droplet sample cards were fastened to the rear fuselage and tail of the aircraft to test potential swath loss and laid across Youngstown ARS’s runway to test swath drift and density. 

Functionality was deemed a success with approval to pass the aerial spray torch to the J-model, while the special mission’s crew allotment onboard the J-model is still being reviewed.

“The J-model currently seems as capable as an H-model for aerial spray,” said Lt. Col. Karl Haagsma, the chief entomologist assigned to the 757th AS. “But there are some significant hurdles to be overcome due to redundancies in navigator and flight engineer positions.”

The 910th AW’s three-year aircraft conversion window is projected to begin mid 2024 with the aircraft swapping out one for one within that period. The unit’s H-models will continue to operate the spray mission alongside the newer J-models until they replace the fleet.