ASL Aviation Group has signed a letter of intent to purchase 10 Lockheed Martin LM-100J freighters, a development that will see Lockheed move forward with certification of its civil version of the C-130J Super Hercules.
The LM-100J will have a list price of about $65 million and deliveries should start in 2018, says Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice-president Orlando Carvalho at the Farnborough air show.
Hugh Flynn, chief executive of Dublin-based ASL, says the LM-100Js will gradually replace nine Lockheed L-100 Hercules aircraft operated by ASL subsidiary Safair, a South African-based charter and logistics company.
Flynn praised the Hercules’s durability, reliability and performance from short airfields in remote locations.
Carvalho says Lockheed began the certification process with the US Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year and expects to finish by the end of 2017. A final validation period will follow.
Lockheed build 115 L-100s, which are based on its original C-130 Hercules, between 1964 and 1992.
In the early 1990s it began producing the upgraded C-130J, but until now had not offered an upgraded civil variant.
The LM-100J will have roughly 50% more range than the L-100, with the ability to fly 2,200nm (4,070km) with a payload of 18,200kg (40,000lb), Lockheed said in February.
It will have a top speed of 355kt (657km/h) - 10% faster than its predecessor - and will be able to be operated by a crew of two, instead of three.
The LM-100J’s four Rolls-Royce AE2100D turboprops will provide 30% more power than the L-100's Allison T-56 powerplants, says Lockheed.
The aircraft will burn 15% less fuel than its predecessor and cost 35% less to maintain, the company said.
Lockheed says it currently produces 24 Super Hercules annually at its Marietta, Georgia facility and will remain at that rate for the “foreseeable future."
It is also negotiating a military contract for 78 C-130Js and says it has enough orders to keep production running "well into the next decade".