Aircrews deploy to Utah to test Senior Scout system

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis E. Keith
  • 130th Airlift Wing
Aircrew members from the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, W.Va., deployed with one aircraft to Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah from July 28 to August 24, 2009 to test Senior Scout, a containerized intelligence facility that has been compartmentalized for installation in a standard C-130E or H.

"Senior Scout is one big modular unit that slides into the C-130; it's self-contained and plugs into the antennas," says Maj. Chris Wright who served as a co-pilot on the deployment.

Despite its plain looks, the West Virginia Air National Guard's C-130H3 Hercules is an advanced platform, the heart of the aircraft being the huge 4,500 cubic foot cargo area that duplicates the volume of the standard American railroad box car.

The Senior Scout container accommodates operators who collect SIGINT (signals intelligence), ELINT (electronic intelligence) and COMINT (communications intelligence).

"We're the first Guard unit to modify our H3 aircraft to fly this," says Loadmaster Master Sgt. Debbie Turrill.

Installation of the entire suite requires about 12 hours, with antenna arrays clipped onto the tail, paratroop doors, and main landing gear doors.

Before the West Virginia airmen deployed to Utah, Senior Scout technicians in Salt Lake City traveled to Charleston and made modifications to the aircraft.

"It took three days to do these permanent modifications," says Master Sgt. Rich Lockard, Flight Engineer.

After the modifications were made, airmen from the 130th deployed to Utah in two groups, the first group performing initial troubleshooting, flying to work out the electrical problems. The second group maneuvered the aircraft in flight to test the equipment to ensure it continued to function.

"Our unit has a reputation of excellence in aviation which was demonstrated during the component testing," says Col. Timothy Frye, Commander of the 130th Airlift Wing.

The 130th Airlift Wing hopes to be awarded the Senior Scout mission permanently.

"This is a good mission for us," says Maj. Wright, "because we have so many part-timers." These part-timers are available to take on the extra work load if the 130th were to be awarded the mission.

"This pays off for us when tasked for the desert [Iraq and Afghanistan], as the part-timers are available."

The West Virginia airmen spent 3-4 hours daily in the air checking out the systems to ensure mission capability.

"We finished testing it for the C-130H and everything passed," says Maj. Wright.

Senior Scout fills a distinct gap in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) with its capability to exploit a growing number of low power tactical targets challenging U.S. intelligence efforts.

It provides near-real time signal intelligence to warfighters, law enforcement agencies and national level decision-makers.

The West Virginia Air National Guard is proud to be the first unit to test Senior Scout on the H3 model of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

"The unit has a reputation of airmanship excellence in aviation and maintenance which was demonstrated during the component testing," says Col. Timothy Frye, Commander of the 130th Airlift Wing.