The US Air Force (USAF) has started flight testing for the C-130J Super Hercules, following a Block 8.1 upgrade.

The training flight was conducted on 3 February at Little Rock Air Force Base to validate the operability of recent hardware and software upgrades received by the aircraft.

The Block 8.1 upgrade is said to improve the C-130J's GPS capabilities, communications systems, updated friend-or-foe identification and allows the aircraft to comply with worldwide air traffic management regulations.

The aviation systems of the aircraft will also be standardised to improve interoperability, the USAF stated.

USAF 61st Airlift Squadron C-130J instructor pilot and the flight commander captain Kyle Gauthier said: “This update will truly allow us to have unhindered global access.

“It will also provide pilots improved situational awareness, and a greater ability to communicate with command and control around the world.”

Airmen from the 19th and 314th Airlift Wings will jointly test the two Block 8.1 upgraded C-130Js over the next two years.

Lockheed Martin will work alongside loadmasters, pilots and maintainers to report any bugs or potential issues.

"This update will truly allow us to have unhindered global access."

Said to be the world's most advanced tactical airlifter, the C-130J Super Hercules can operate out of 2,000ft-long dirt strips in high mountain ranges, according to Lockheed.

Capable of transporting more than 40,000lb of cargo and supplies, the aircraft is currently in service with 68 countries.

The C-130J has been designed to conduct special ops, aerial refuelling, close air support, search and rescue and personal recovery.

Image: An airman in the cockpit. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Senior Airman Harry Brexel.