UPGRADES to the identification transponders on the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules will allow the fleet to continue flying in civilian and military-controlled airspace.
Installation of Mode 5 IFF and ADS-B systems on a RAAF C-130J Hercules was recently completed by the Air Lift Systems Program Office (ALSPO) and Airbus Australia Pacific, with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics assistance.
This has been a unique project to acquire the systems under a fast-tracked approach to achieve the interoperability deadlines.
ADS-B – or Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast – is the new transponder format that will be used by civilian and military air traffic control services.
The system precisely broadcasts the aircraft’s location, and can transmit rate of climb/descent, velocity and ground speed, track angle, and several identification codes.
Similarly, Mode 5 IFF (or Identification Friend or Foe) is the latest format for NATO aircraft broadcasting their information in an airspace.
Generations of IFF have been in use since the 1940s, with Mode 5 being more secure and providing more accurate information than its predecessors.
The systems draw on information from the aircraft’s navigational systems as well as flight data recorded by instruments.
All RAAF aircraft will require similar modification if they are to continue operating in international airspace into the 2020s.
For the C-130J, Australia collaborated with the United Kingdom as the lead country and Denmark to share the costs of developing the modifications with Hercules manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
AIRCDRE Bill Kourelakos, Commander Air Mobility Group, said the systems were critical to working in civilian and military airspace environments.
“Recent relief missions in the Northern Territory and Indonesia, not to mention the Middle East, all showcase the variety of airspace environments we need to work in,” AIRCDRE Kourelakos said.
“This upgrade not only informs air traffic control and other airspace users, but it helps the Hercules crew to remain aware of their airspace environment, and to carry out their mission safely.”
The first aircraft has completed ground and flight testing, with a joint flight test team from Lockheed Martin and Air Warfare Centre to assess and certify the upgrade.
OC ALSPO, GPCAPT Jacqueline Churchill said the project saw deep collaboration between Lockheed Martin, Airbus Australia Pacific, and ALSPO.
“This project was a great example of how a collaboration with a number of stakeholders, in particular ALSPO, Airbus and Lockheed Martin, can work together to achieve the best practice outcome for Defence,” GPCAPT Churchill said.
“The IFF upgrade demonstrates what can be achieved having an integrated matrix approach with our industry partners.”
WGCDR Julie Canterbury, head of the AIR5440 Team within ALSPO that coordinated the modifications, said the project was being delivered on time and budget with positive engagement from all stakeholders.
”The project team worked tirelessly to achieve this, engaging widely across AMG and Air Warfare Centre for flight testing,” WGCDR Canterbury said.
“There was also ongoing engagement from DASA to ensure that the certification is achieved in accordance with the mandatory requirements.”
“This is a result of the professionalism and dedication to the project from all parties, and the desire to achieve a common goal.”
By December 2019, six of Air Force's C-130Js will be modified to receive ADS-B and Mode-5 IFF, with the remaining fleet completed by mid-2020.