China may be the next export customer for the Lockheed Martin C-130.
The White House on Friday posted this letter from President Barack Obama to Rep Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives:
“I hereby report to the Congress that it is in the national interest of the United States to terminate the suspensions under section 902(a)(3) of the Act with respect to the issuance of temporary munitions export licenses for exports to the People’s Republic of China insofar as such restrictions pertain to the C-130 cargo aircraft to be used in oil spill response operations at sea.”
This is quite an interesting development. There does seem to be a legitimate pretext. C-130s helped spray oil dispersal in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April. China also has been dealing with a much smaller oil spill in the Yellow Sea since July. Meanwhile, the Congressional notification comes a few days before US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets his Chinese counterpart in Hanoi.
But it’s still surprising to see the US lift a strict embargo on arms sales to China for a C-130. Why? China already owns a fleet of C-130-like Shaanxi Y-8s, a copy of the Antonov An-12. Moreover, China is already building a C-130 look-alike called the Y-9. China also has a long history of re-engineering military and commercial aircraft.
Monday is a bank holiday for the US government, but I hope to start getting answers this week.