FARNBOROUGH 2008: USAF order secures Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Hercules production

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Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Hercules order book is looking strong again, and fears that the Marietta production line was facing an empty order book have subsided.

Ross Reynolds, vice president of C-130 Programs for Lockheed Martin, says the company has now notched up 221 C-130Js orders, with a current backlog of 58 aircraft.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force marked the first proper foreign military sales (FMS) deal for C-130J and the first is due for delivery this autumn.

Government-to-government purchases come under the FMS programme, with the US Department of Defense serving as an intermediary, unlike direct commercial sales between foreign governments and US companies, such as the C-130J deals with the UK, Italy and Australia.

Canada will receive the first of its 17 aircraft in late 2010, with India now on contract for six special forces-configured, stretched, C-130J-30s – making it the 70th nation to operate the Hercules and the first nation to start its Hercules association with the C-130J model.

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The biggest news for the programme is the USAF Special Operations Command HC/MC-130 recapitalisation programme.

Having dropped plans to upgrade its ‘Legacy Herks’ under Boeing’s troubled avionics modernization programme (AMP) the USAF has instead opted for new aircraft, based on a common airframe derived from the US Marine Corps’ KC-130J.

The new requirement initially calls for 115 aircraft; initially comprising 78 HC-130Js for Air Combat Command and 37 MC-130Js for AFSOC.

In anticipation of the huge new USAF requirement, Lockheed Martin says that it is ready to ramp up production to 24 aircraft per year from the current 12.

The new common HC/MC-130J has been developed using company funds in order to meet the USAF’s ambitious target for service entry.

An ambitious initial operating capability (IOC) date of 2012 has been set and Lockheed Martin is hoping to make a first flight in 2010.