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ERCİYES Project Continues to Move Forward Albeit with Delays!

Issue 99

News published by Anadolu Agency (AA) on April 28, 2020, shared information and images related to the activities carried out within the scope of the ERCİYES Avionics Modernization Project Serial Production Phase, performed by Turkish engineers and technicians at the 2nd Air Maintenance Factory Directorate (HBFM) in Kayseri.  The images featured the modernization activities conducted on C-130 Hercules Military Transport Aircraft, with the tail numbers 608, 609 and 991, painted in Turkish Stars colors.

In his statement to the AA correspondent, the 2nd HBFM Factory Level Maintenance and Repair Manager Aeronautical Engineer Lt. Col. Süleyman ERBİL noted that the maintenance of the C-130B/E Hercules Aircraft is carried out every 6 years at the 2nd HBFM facilities, and the maintenance activities that are completed in 120 working days under normal conditions can take 6 months to 1 year, depending on the aircraft's condition.

The first aircraft (C-130E with the tail number 63-13188), the maintenance of which was completed within the scope of ERCİYES Project (Avionic Modernization of C-130E/B Aircraft) under the coordination of the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and under the main contractor ship of Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ), was delivered to the Turkish Air Force Command (HvKK) at a ceremony held at TUSAŞ facilities on August 8, 2014. Speaking at the ceremony, President of Defense Industries Prof. İsmail DEMİR stated that they aimed to complete all modernization activities within the scope of the Project in 2016 and take 19 aircraft into inventory.

The acceptance process of the second and last prototype aircraft of the Project (C-130B with the tail number 61-2634) took longer than planned, and after obtaining flight approval, it was handed over to the HvKK with an acceptance flight conducted in Kayseri in the second half of December 2016. Thus, the Prototype Phase could be completed at the end of 2016 under the ERCİYES Project, the contract of which came into force on January 4, 2007.

The aircraft, which are planned to remain in the inventory until 2040, have been named as C-130BM and C-130EM after the modernization activities.

Within the scope of the Serial Production Phase, five aircraft were planned to be put into service in 2015, and then updated as 2016 and 2017. The 736, 960 and 468 were the three of these aircraft. The work on the first Serial Production Aircraft (Serial No-I, C-130B Aircraft with tail number 58-0736) conducted at TUSAŞ facilities was expected to be completed in 2014 and it was planned to be delivered to the HvKK by the end of the year. However, the acceptance date was later updated as November/December 2015 and then as 2017 Q1. The modernization of the Serial No-I aircraft with the tail number 736 was completed, but as the time for Factory Level Maintenance and Repair activities got closer, it was accepted to conduct such activities and its official delivery to the HvKK was delayed. The delivery date of the Serial No-II aircraft with the tail number 960 (61-960 C-130B) was also planned as 2017 Q1, but the acceptance process was eventually completed on 28 December 2017.

With the revision made in the project schedule, each C-130 Hercules Aircraft to be modernized starting from the 2nd Serial Production Aircraft (4th aircraft modernized in the Project) is subjected to Factory Level Maintenance and Repair activities and then delivered to the HvKK.

The avionic modernization kit integration and installation activities for each C-130 aircraft take about 6 months, while Factory Level Maintenance and Repair activities take an average of 6-7 months. Thus, the aircraft undergoing maintenance are simultaneously subjected to both Factory Level Maintenance and Repair activities and avionic modernization.

The delay in the project schedule led to a loss of around US$ 25-26 million by TUSAŞ as of October 2015. Additionally, the transformation (workmanship) of two C-130B/E aircraft into C-130BM/EM configuration free of charge in return for the penalty caused by the delay came to the agenda and an agreement was reached with the HvKK. Furthermore, it was announced in those days that TUSAŞ would perform the integration and installation activities of avionic modernization kits for an additional C-130 Aircraft free of charge. Thus, a total of five C-130B/E aircraft, two of which are prototypes, would be modernized and upgraded to C-130BM/EM configuration at TUSAŞ facilities, and, upon the request of the HvKK, the avionic kit integration and installation activities could be performed for an additional six aircraft provided that the costs of workmanship are paid for by the HyKK.

The C-130BM/EM Hercules Military Transport Aircraft is equipped with a Digital Cockpit (4-color Multifunctional Display with a moving map capability), two Central Display Units (CDU) and two multifunction Central Control Computers compatible with international navigational requirements, as well as with a multifunction Mission Computer with high operational capability, Flight Management System (FMS), Ground Mission Planning Unit compatible with the Air Force Information System, and display and lighting systems compatible with Night Vision Goggles.

The Operational Flight Program (OFP, nearly 3.2 million lines of code) used in the national mission computer (Central Control Computer) to control and manage the new avionic equipment in the aircraft was developed by TUSAŞ engineers in accordance with the DO-178B Level-A standard.

Thanks to the digital cockpit compatible with the Night Vision Goggles (NVG), safe navigation capability has been secured at night, day and under any weather conditions. In addition, the aircraft has gained the capability allowing night jumping (both parachutists and loads) at low altitudes.

Within the scope of the project, the aircraft are also equipped with the MIDS Terminal and Link-16 Tactical Data Link System. Thus, the C-130BM/EM Aircraft become capable of conducting integrated operations with the E-7T Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, modernized F-16s and command control elements (this capability was used in the operation conducted in Libya recently). With the Link-16 Tactical Data Link Integration activities, the aircraft have gained interoperability with other platforms in the inventory (ability to share video, audio and text (in short message format) with other friendly and allied elements). On account of Link-16, C-130BM/EM Aircraft are able to transmit short, concise and cosmic level of confidential information to both ground (air-to-ground) and air (air-to-air) elements.

The C-130 Hercules Aircraft has a crew of five; two Pilots, Navigator, Flight Engineer and Loadmaster. Thanks to the FMS software developed by TUSAŞ engineers and replacing the Navigator within the scope of the ERCİYES Project, the number of crew in the modernized C-130BM/EM Hercules Aircraft has been reduced to four.

Additionally, in 2013, within the scope of the ERCİYES Project, the transformation of two C-130BM/EM aircraft into the Gun Ship configuration with a new amendment to the ERCİYES Contract was brought to the agenda, but no progress was achieved in the following years