• A No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules is marshalled into a parking position at RAAF Base Darwin.
    A No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules is marshalled into a parking position at RAAF Base Darwin. Defence

The first in a fleet-wide upgrade of identification transponders on C-130J Hercules transport aircraft has been completed by the RAAF to allow the aircraft to continue flying safely in civilian and military-controlled airspace.

The Air Lift Systems Program Office (ALSPO) and Airbus Australia Pacific, with assistance from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, installed the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) and Mode 5 IFF systems on the first airframe.

ADS-B is the new transponder format being used by civilian and military air traffic control services. Similarly, Mode 5 IFF is the latest version of NATO’s friend-or-foe identification system.

Both systems are more accurate and advanced than those they replace. Similar modifications will be necessary on all RAAF aircraft to enable their continuing operation in military and civilian international airspace.

Commander Air Mobility Group, Air Commodore Bill Kourelakos said recent relief missions in the NT and Indonesia demonstrated the variety of airspace environments RAAF operated in.

“This upgrade not only better informs air traffic control and other airspace users, it helps our crews to maintain airspace awareness and complete their missions safely,” AIRCDRE Kourelakos said.

Officer Commanding ALSPO, Group Captain Jacqueline Churchill said the project exemplified collaborative relationships between Defence and contractors.

“The C-130J Mode 5 IFF and ADS-B upgrade is a great example of how Defence and industry partners work together to achieve best practice outcomes,” GPCPT Churchill said.

Australia joined lead customers the UK and Denmark in sharing the cost of developing the upgrades with aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Six of the RAAF’s C-130J aircraft are scheduled to receive the ADS-B and Mode-5 IFF upgrade by December 2019, with the remainder of the fleet to be completed by mid-2020.

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