Boeing is to offer modular avionics upgrades for ageing Lockheed Martin C-130 transports that will enable foreign operators to leverage off the US Air Force's Hercules Avionics Modernisation Program (AMP).
The manufacturer has begun marketing a lower-cost "scaleable avionics architecture" for C-130 cockpits, and is now targeting a potential upgrade deal for the 47 transports operated by Saudi Arabia.
"The USAF is the big dog in the fight and they have all these airplanes, but there are other customers out there that we have talked to about it," says Boeing C-130 AMP business development manager Jeff McDaniel.
"There is interest in a scaleable architecture with reduced cost. Something that will allow them to spiral up at a later date to get to a full AMP."
At least 222 legacy USAF C-130s are set to undergo the AMP upgrade, and will receive glass cockpits with head-up displays, night vision imaging system compliance, and communication, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management systems.
Components of the scaleable avionics architecture would include the digital glass cockpit, advanced flight management, terrain/traffic collision avoidance and smart air data systems, colour weather radar and digital autopilot.
McDaniel says the scaleable architecture will cost "anywhere from a third to half" of the full AMP specification, but still enable customers to benefit from the logistics, support and training infrastructure being set up for the USAF, as well as a higher level of interoperability. The full AMP upgrade is about one-seventh the cost of acquiring a new C-130J, he says.
"It leverages the US government's investment and is based on the AMP core system," says McDaniel. "It's like going to dinner and knowing what the main course is, but you get to pick everything else."
When future block upgrades are developed as part of the AMP, "you'd be able to jump right into that path along with the USAF", he adds.
McDaniel believes there are around 700 "addressable" C-130s in operation worldwide, including non-air force examples in the USA. He says Boeing is talking to "several countries that are interested in something less than a full-up AMP, but something that will let them get there eventually".
The upgraded avionics could be supplied in kit form and installed locally, says McDaniel.