GREAT FALLS — Inside a hangar at the Montana Air National Guard base in Great Falls is an example of the future of C-130s.
One of the Guard’s C-130s was undergoing an upgrade Tuesday. It was the second MANG C-130 to get the upgrade.
"Very excited for our unit,” MT ANG Aircraft Commander Ryan Caldwell said about the upgrade.
Caldwell is a C-130 pilot.
"Overall, it's going to improve our performance, our reliability, our maintainability, and it decreases our mobility footprint overall and then noise and vibration as well."
Montana Air National Guard Lt. Col. John Salotti said the Guard's C-130s are undergoing a months-long process to replace the legacy four-blade propellers with eight-blade propellers.
"This program actually started back in the early 2000s and it's been on-again-off-again depending on budget requirements and what's been available. Now, it's especially important because the legacy propeller has got some supply chain issues that has caused it to be slightly unreliable,” Salotti explained. "So the fact that we can get this modification done now really makes it so that our force remains viable and that we're ready for current conflicts as well as those in the future."
The Guard is lucky to be getting the upgrade.
"There are a lot of units that want these modifications as quick as they can get them. Thankfully, our unit happened to be in a spot where we had airplanes that were ready to go down to Gulfport (Mississippi) for the initial install of our first airplane,” Salotti said. "Then, also we had the facilities that were ready and able, and the trained Airmen here, that were ready for the contractors to come in and do this current install."
"This is huge on the road because we used to have to take the whole prop with us before if we had to change anything. Now we can just take these individual blades,” Caldwell said, walking around the C-130 being upgraded in the hangar. "Initially, it's going to be a lot of training folders that are opened up until we get everyone signed off o these new eight-bladed props."
As of Tuesday, the contractors doing the work on the planes were expected to be at the base through May and have five of the C-130s upgraded by the time they're done.