Uruguayan Air Force Modernizes One of its C-130B Hercules Aircraft

Versão em português

Nastasia Barceló


Uruguay's Air Force (FAU) is modernizing and providing maintenance for one of its two Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130B aircraft, which in recent years has carried out humanitarian and scientific assistance to remote areas such as Africa and Antarctica and served the Uruguayan population in response to natural disasters.

The FAU utilized an Exceptional Direct Purchase to hire the Chilean firm Enaer to provide the aircraft's maintenance, including a “Minor ISO Inspection, Major ISO Inspection, Program Depot Maintenance (PDM), rewiring of the cockpit and fuselage, repair and overhaul of accessories, and the maintenance of the Allison T-56 engines (overhaul of the turbine modules, compressor modules, gearboxes, complete intermediate maintenance, isochronal inspections, test benches, etc.),” according to an FAU statement.

The FAU did not have the proper equipment and expertise to service the aircraft, which it acquired in 1992, so it hired Enaer. The company “has met all of the requirements and has also shown over the years that they conduct serious, committed work with skilled technicians,” said Col. Guillermo Gurbindo, Director of Public Relations for the FAU, adding that “geographical proximity” was also taken into account as part of the selection.

The C-130B Hercules is a U.S.-manufactured plane with four Allison T-56 A7 turboprop engines and eight hours of autonomous flying time, all-metal construction, and high wings. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 11,500 meters (35,000 feet) and can carry up to 92 passengers, or 64 Paratroopers, or 64 stretchers and three to four light vehicles.

Important missions

The FAU has two Hercules C-130B aircraft that service members use extensively in various medium- and long-range missions, such as trips to Antarctica. The FAU also uses the aircraft to support the Uruguayan Armed Forces' peacekeeping missions.

The plane receiving maintenance in Chile has conducted numerous missions supporting the deployment of Uruguayan contingents serving as part of United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. For example, in 2014, Uruguay transported a Bell-212 “Twin Huey” helicopter to the FAU flight team in the interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In another of its missions, in May 2015, one of the FAU’s two Hercules C-130B aircraft landed at Argentina’s Piloto Fernández Airport, where it was loaded with a spare part bound for the Dutch-flagged Antarctic ship TIMCA. The vessel had suffered a mechanical malfunction during a logistics mission near the Marambio Base in Antarctica.

The frequent and far-reaching humanitarian aid missions that the Uruguayan Hercules C-130B aircraft supports led the FAU to opt for Enaer, according to Col. Gurbindo. “However, to a lesser extent we also work with other companies in the region such as Brazil's Embraer, and sometimes with the Argentine Air Force’s San Martin Brigadier Aircraft Factory of Argentina for the maintenance of our Pucará aircraft.”

The 2015-2016 Antarctic Campaign

The FAU carries out summer logistics flights to Antarctica, which are known as Technical Support, Maintenance, Repair Service, and Aircraft Spare Parts Exchange operations. These missions provide support to the scientific bases Uruguay operates under the 2015-2016 Antarctic Campaign.

The 2015-2016 Antarctic Campaign is part of the Antarctic Treaty, an international pact among 52 countries for which Uruguay has served as an advisory member for the past 30 years. The campaign's objectives include promoting measures and decisions regarding legal, political, logistical, and technological issues on Antarctica.

The 2016 summer campaign began with the departure of the first flight of one of the FAU's Hercules C-130 aircraft on December 1st, followed by the departure of the Uruguayan Navy vessel ROU 26 “Vanguardia," which left the port of Montevideo en route to Antarctica. The Military aircraft and vessel were carrying 40 tons of equipment, which included supplies and spare parts, as well as 250,000 liters of diesel fuel.

The routine maintenance being carried out on the FAU Hercules C-130B is part of a project that costs over $82,000. The previous maintenance project, in 2014, cost over $435,000.


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