I’ve been waiting for nearly a year to use that headline.
It was at the Air Force Association convention last year that I first asked Lockheed Martin the question: Will you study widening the C-130? I got a “no comment” back then. Finally, one week before the AFA convention this year, the secret is finally out. Lockheed has confirmed to me it is studying the viability of making a wider version of the 55-year-old C-130 available after 2015.
Read the full story here at FlightGlobal.com, or simply click on the link below.
Lockheed Martin confirms studies are under way for a new version of the C-130featuring a wider fuselage to accommodate a proposed class of US Armyground vehicles entering service after 2015. The enlarged airlifterwould compete against the Airbus Military A400M and Boeing’s proposed C-17B to support the army’s Future Combat System.
“There’sclearly things we can do to the C-130 to increase the size of thefuselage if there’s a market that wants that,” says Jim Grant,Lockheed’s business development director for global mobility andspecial operations forces.
“Wehave teams looking at what it would take to make a [longer] fuselage,”Grant says, “and then we also have the design teams looking at theemerging technologies should the requirements drive us to the newairframe.”
Current plans for the FCS consist of a family ofnetworked vehicles and systems, including a key subset of manned groundvehicles that has already outgrown the C-130′s cargo hold and payloadweight limits. The current aircraft’s cargo box has a diameter of 2.78m(9ft), versus 4m for the A400M and 5.48m for the C-17A.
The USAir Force plans to maintain a fleet of nearly 600 new or upgradedHercules, and believes a mix of 221 modernised C-130Hs and 172new-generation C-130Js will be sufficient to meet most of the army’sintra-theatre airlift requirement, as only 15 of its 76 future brigadecombat teams will receive FCS equipment.
But with the fleet toleave a capability gap for the proposed FCS manned ground vehiclesafter 2015, the USAF is discussing several options.
One is topartner the army to develop an all-new airlifter for delivery after2021. A notional development programme called Joint Future TheatreLift, emphasising either vertical or super-short take-off and access toaustere airstrips, is in the planning stages.
Another option isto buy an off-the-shelf aircraft such as the A400M. Boeing has alsoproposed the C-17B, which is adapted for austere landings withhigher-thrust engines, triple-slotted flaps and an extra main landinggear.
Meanwhile, Lockheed is considering a widened version ofthe C-130J. Grant says engineers are studying modifications forsuper-short take-off capability, but appears dubious that any existingturboprop-powered airlifter will be large enough to accommodate the FCSrequirement.
“I don’t know whether the A400M will be able tocarry the [FCS manned ground] vehicles,” Grant says. “I do not knowwhether the weight of those vehicles will climb right through theweight [limit] of the A400M or not. What I can say is that the A400Mwill continue to be very heavy for [C-130]J-type capability.”