Home Air US Air Force trials new engine to enhance ski-equipped LC-130’s polar skills

US Air Force trials new engine to enhance ski-equipped LC-130’s polar skills

An LC-130H Ski Equipped aircraft outfitted with newly overhauled NP2000 T56-15A (3.5 modified) engines. Photo: US Air Force

The New York Air Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing recently trialed a new engine for the ski-equipped LC-130 that is poised to improve the airlifter’s capability in the Arctic and Antarctica.

An aircrew of seven airmen flew the LC-130 with the new NP2000 T56-A-15A turbo-prop 3.5 upgrades for the first time at Stratton Air National Guard Base on October 11.

“These new engines will be a game changer for the unit,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Dumond, a flight engineer with the 109th.

“Combined with the LC-130H’s NP2000 eight bladed propellors, this 3.5 engine is the finishing piece to the NP2000 system; modernizing the 109th’s fleet into a more powerful polar airlift force” Dumond added.

A turboprop is a hybrid engine that provides jet thrust and also drives a propeller.

It is basically similar to a turbojet except that an added turbine, rearward of the combustion chamber, works through a shaft and speed-reducing gears to turn a propeller at the front of the engine.

The new engine upgrades build upon the previous improvements of the NP2000 propellers, fully integrated into the fleet back in 2019, the NP200 propellers have eight blades instead of the four on the legacy engines.

These high-tech propellers increase torque for accelerated takeoffs on ice and snow, and streamline maintenance requirements.

Because the 109th Airlift Wing operates the Department of Defense’s only ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft, the wing deploys annually to the cold and austere environments of Greenland and Antarctica in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The wing provides heavy airlift and transport with the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world to the NSF in both of these locations.

Occasionally, the skibirds have trouble taking off from icy surfaces of these areas of operation, due to heavy cargo loads or friction lock under the skis.

Previously, jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) bottles were attached to the aircraft and used to create extra thrust to get the skibirds off the snow or ice and into the air. JATO production, however, ended in 1991. Upgraded engines, and their capabilities, will fill that void.

“The power in these new upgrades is apparent in the seat” said Major Patrick Newton, a pilot with the 109th. “The difference is something we definitely have to adjust for but, it improves our capabilities and makes us more effective” Newton added.

The future of the program will have the wing overhauling the engine systems of an additional four aircraft by their next flying season in Greenland in April of 2023, and the entire fleet by the following Operation Deep Freeze deployment of 2023 and 2024.