restricted access 7. Modification Program Revisions
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C h a p t e r 7 Modification Program Revisions Weight Reduction and Performance Improvement I f we view the AC-119 reconfiguration project as a total package, the most significant revisions made during the production of the gunships were undoubtedly those related to aircraft performance and weight reduction. Although the modification requirements had been meticulously crafted from the beginning of the program, no mission profiles had been included for either the G or the K model. When the project started, WRAMA had little idea of the speed, weight, maneuverability, and/or operational capacity the gunships needed to fulfill their wartime mission. Mission Profile As early as 12 February 1968, Warner Robins management had requested this information from their counterparts in Honolulu. Due to their focus on countering the enemy’s spring 1968 Tet Offensive, PACAF personnel never responded, nor did they reply to follow-up inquiries. Under pressure from senior USAF leadership who had presented them with tight project schedules, the WRAMA leaders pushed ahead without a specific flight or modification program 129 mission profile. The experts at Robins exercised their best judgment to proceed with the mission requirements, such as the AC-119s’ flight time, loiter time, fuel capacity, weight, and speed. As it turned out, the profile that Warner Robins finally formulated, using bits and pieces from Pacific Air Forces and their own “guesstimate,” proved to be flawed since much of the data was based on the cargo aircraft characteristics of the old C-119s. This miscommunication caused yet another unforeseen delay.1 Even using WRAMA’s less taxing criterion of an average mission consisting of a four-hour flight, initial tests done on the first G models revealed that the aircraft was far too heavy. With all of its new radio, targeting, and avionics equipment in place, the fuel consumption was also too rapid. Further tests and an examination of the cargo aircraft’s original designs disclosed that the initial conceptual profile plans were based on a three-hour mission while fully loaded and a longer mission only if weight were removed. With this in mind, the experts at Warner Robins reasoned that the easiest solution was to determine what items could be omitted from the final design. In mid-July 1968 those units concerned with the project met at Robins AFB “to discuss alternatives for improving the aircraft’s performance in order to meet mission requirements.” The TAC representatives briefed the results of the tests, and everyone soon realized that further delays would be necessary in order to find a solution to the twin problems of rate of climb and weight reduction. Air force, Pacific Air Forces, and 7AF officials concurred with the Robins engineers about the final design and directed them to either remove all nonessential items or find lighter replacements. This would, of course, delay the project further.2 As they considered the most logical candidates for removal, on 23 July, at the first article configuration inspection held at Saint Augustine, officials discovered just how difficult weight reduction was going to be. During the meeting, PACAF representatives explained to the attendees not only that the average missions would be much longer than three hours but also that the aircraft still needed sufficient armor to protect crews in increasingly lethal combat environments. As a result, Colonel Christenson, the program director, appointed a task force that consisted of personnel from all of the concerned parties in an effort to develop a definitive operational concept and a mission profile for the G model. These people retreated to a nearby trailer and spent the entire day developing a plan. The final mission profile concluded that the average mission lasted five hours and forty minutes.3 130 Shadow and stinger Needlesstosay,therepresentativesfromWarner Robinswerecrestfallen. This new profile meant that their aircraft design was too heavy to meet performance standards and that the additional equipment, which had only recently been installed, had to be considered for removal. Worse, it meant that, once the items for removal had been agreed upon, the aircraft would have to be recycled through the contractor’s plant to remove these components. This resulted in still more delays and increased program costs. Everyone realized that the same issues faced the K models as well. Even so, finding and fixing this problem at the beginning of the G model reconfiguration portended an easier solution to the K model’s weight problems if for no other reason than that the vast majority of the K models would...


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