There are two components to airlift. There is Inter-theatre (or strategic) airlift, which is the long-range transportation of troops and cargo from Point A to Point B.
Then there is Intra-theatre (or tactical) airlift, which is the shorter-range transportation of troops and cargo from Point B to Point C – Point C frequently being a hard to reach, forward location where the resources are actually required and used. This accounts for the vast majority of Canada’s air transport requirements – whether for disaster response, peace-keeping missions or military operations.
Once a strategic airlifter is unloaded at Point B, it is then of little use in theatre. From there tactical airlift takes over, transporting troops, equipment and supplies to locations in and around the theatre of operations daily and often several times per day, sometimes for the entire duration of the deployment.
This type of operation requires a more manoeuvrable aircraft, such as the C-130J, with the capability to land-on and take-off quickly from short, unprepared airstrips. This is where Canada’s current, critical air mobility deficiency lies – tactical aircraft to support sustained military operations, which often last for several months or more. For example, Canada’s CC-130s have been providing daily support to the Canadian Forces deployment to Afghanistan since it began. The ability to continue to do this is severely diminished due to the age and availability of the aircraft.
“Priority number one for me — crystallized after Afghanistan — is tactical airlift. We know across the Canadian Forces that we have a challenge with our C-130 fleet, and we need to ensure that we have a tactical airlift capability that can maintain that lifeline to wherever we are going to be conducting operations on behalf of Canada.”
Chief of Defence Staff, January 2005
Older C-130s Cost More
The low serviceability rate of Canada’s current CC-130 fleet requires the operation and maintenance of more aircraft than might otherwise be necessary because so many are out of service at any given time.
The New C-130J Saves Money
- Better fuel efficiency, less operating and maintenance personnel, and lower maintenance costs due to highly reliable and easily maintained systems, reduces total direct operating cost per aircraft by over 30% relative to Canada’s E and older H models.
- The C-130J has a higher mission departure rate (95%) and mission completion rate (95%) than Canada’s CC-130s. Greater serviceability translates into higher utilization rates per aircraft, and overall lower costs per mission. This means Canada needs fewer C-130J to replace the E-models that are still in service. Operating new aircraft – and fewer of them due to increased productivity – will result in a 30% to 40% savings on operating costs.
- An important cost-saving advantage of conserving the airframe design on the C-130J is the elimination of any need for major additional investments in infrastructure (e.g. hangars and maintenance facilities) to accommodate what in all other respects is a totally new aircraft.
The Bottom Line
Canada’s transition to the C-130J will:
- Improve the availability and productivity of Canada’s airlift capability
Decrease operating costs and mission failure rate
- Get the Canadian Forces anywhere they need to go, faster and with more cargo
- Carry 100% of Canadian humanitarian mission equipment and 95% of military kit, more reliably
- Without any additional investment, obtain maximum interoperability with Canada’s military allies
- Avoid costly maintenance and the high-risk associated with extended operation of Canada’s E and older H models