McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, Charleston W.Va. --
In September 2022, three members from the 130th Maintenance Group discovered a fault in radio communication systems aboard eight C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
Master Sgt. Robert Maddy, the Integrated Electronic Systems Leader, and Technical Sgts. Adam Hanshew and Calib Hartline, Integrated Electronic Systems Technicians, work with communication electronic warfare systems, navigation, GPS, and weather radars.
While running their initial operational checks on the newly acquired aircraft systems, they discovered a faulty part within the radio system. They suspected the fault when first hearing non-encrypted radio communication over encrypted radio systems.
“At first, we thought it was a flaw in the wiring,” Maddy said. “We thought there was something wrong with just our planes or maybe something wrong at the factory.”
With every addition of each new C-130J aircraft, they began to notice a pattern that as each aircraft went through an operational check, it would fail at the same step.
“It just came down to the point where it was very frustrating,” Hanshew said.
This was concerning because aviation radio systems are a vital component to communicating securely between multiple aircraft, maintaining readiness for real-world utilization, and ensuring the success of the mission at hand.
Diving deeper to expose the root of the problem took months, and it wasn’t identified until they located a singular wire that was out of place in each subset of the system. It turned out that the part they had originally installed on each of the planes was an incorrect variation of that specific part. While the part that was installed corresponded to their technical orders, a document that gives them the entire breakdown of the radio system, it did not provide proper functionality.
Once the problem was identified they immediately sought to resolve the issue, but it wasn’t going to be fixed with the push of a button.
The next step to getting the 130th fleet fixed required them to submit a maintenance technical assistance request for information and approval to use requested components, which takes time. Engineers also provided assistance in determining a part that would provide the functionality called for in their operational checks. They also submitted a document to request a tech data update listing the correct components, so aircraft will pass their operational tests.
Right now, two out of the eight aircraft have passed their security checks because of the attention to detail shown by the Communication Navigation team. Additionally, all the parts that are needed to fix the remaining six are ordered and on their way.
The three aircraft maintainers were recently recognized by The Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, and the 130th Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Bryan Preece, for identifying the issue and going above and beyond to ensure the aircraft’s communication systems are working properly.
“It is vital that our Airmen pay close attention to detail,” Col. Preece said. “The men and women of our Maintenance Group at the 130th have never failed to provide ready and reliable aircraft for us to employ anywhere around the world.”