Australia and Lockheed Martin have begun preliminary talks over the purchase of additional C-130J tactical transports early in the next decade.
It is not clear how many aircraft could be bought to supplement the Royal Australian Air Force's current 12 C-130Js (one pictured below), bought in 1999, but industry sources say about six more may be required. These would help to replace the 14 de Havilland DHC-4 Caribous that Australia will retire at the end of 2009, and some of its remaining eight C-130Hs that entered service more than 30 years ago. Additional J-model transports would also support the RAAF's four Boeing C-17 strategic transports, introduced in 2006.
© Australian Department of Defence
Further details on Australia's future military transport requirements should be available after the release of the country's new Defence White Paper around April, the sources add.
Canberra has been happy with the performance of its existing C-130s, which provide it with medium- to long-range transport with a short, dirt runway capability. This allows the aircraft to perform tactical and strategic transport duties, search and survivor assistance roles, disaster relief and medical evacuations.
Lockheed plugged the C-130J and its capabilities at the Avalon 2009 international air show in Geelong, Victoria, where George Standridge, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' vice-president of business development, said 257 of the type have been ordered to date, and 171 delivered. These perform missions including air combat, air-to-air refuelling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, weather reconnaissance, electronic combat and firefighting.
Meanwhile, Lockheed hopes to increase annual production steadily from 12 aircraft last year to around 24 in 2010, building on recent orders. These include purchases by Canada, India, Norway, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over the last two years. Standridge says the company is in detailed discussions with several countries, and adds: "The C-130J continues to be the airlifter of choice for many nations."