Production of the first Lockheed Martin C-130J for the Israeli air force (IAF) began recently in a short ceremony in Atlanta.
The first C-130J "Samson" will be delivered in 2014. IAF crews recently visited a US Air Force C-130J squadron to hear about the operation of the advanced aircraft.
The IAF dubs all its aircraft with Hebrew names. The C-130 E/Hs it currently operates are dubbed "Karnaf" (Rhinoceros).
The cockpits of the IAF's C-130Js will have three seats, similar to the configuration used by the US Special Forces.
The aircraft will be modified for the future installation of some Israeli systems. These are being developed now.
The IAF is operating 15 C-130 E/Hs. In recent years all the fleet underwent fatigue tests with the assistance of Lockheed Martin.
The Es will be phased out while the Hs will get structure treatment.
The contract with the Israeli ministry of defence currently includes three C-130Js, but it is expected that more will be purchased in the next two years.
Parallel to the preparations made to get the first C-130J, the IAF has embarked on a comprehensive upgrade of its current fleet of the C-130H.
These will get a new main wing box. The Bedek division of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will perform the series replacement of the original main wing boxes. This will begin soon.
A source close to the programme said that the upgraded Hs and some E/H models will stay in service while the E models that are still flying will be phased out.
The acquisition process for the C-130J began before the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) decided last year to form a new Depth Command.
This command is in charge of combining the assets of the infantry, air force and navy to perform what is defined loosely as "long-range operations".
The purchase of the Samsons is not directly connected with this but if you look at the bigger picture and the operational needs, you might find some very strong strings attaching both decisions.