In an effort to improve the efficiency of its Hercules fleet, the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh; Chilean Air Force) has begun retrofitting the aircraft with new Collins Aerospace eight-blade NP2000 composite propellers.
On September 13, the FACh announced that the first aircraft to undergo this upgrade, KC-130R (serial 992), had been completed and has re-entered service with Grupo de Aviación No 10 (10 Aviation Group) at Santiago-Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport. Test flights with the new propellers had been completed on September 9, enabling the aircraft to be returned to operational use.
The new digital electronic control system technology improves performance with increased power and reliability while it also reduces maintenance costs, in addition to other benefits. The FACh states that maintenance times and costs are reduced by around 50%. The new, Kevlar-coated carbon blades were installed in the ENAER hangar at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport by personnel from ENAER and the FACh.
Chile is the only Latin American operator to incorporate this technology in its Hercules. It has also been adopted by the US Air Force and US Navy. The FACh also introduced new wheel and brake upgrades to its aircraft from 2015. It is not immediately clear whether the FACh intends to upgrade all it remaining Hercules with the new propellers. The current fleet also includes one C-130B, two more KC-130Rs and three C-130Hs.