The Israeli air force has revealed first details of the unique configuration sought for its future fleet of four Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports, a contract for which could be signed by May, leading to deliveries from 2012.
"We evaluated the aircraft in the USA and Israel recently, and know exactly what we want to change in order to allow us to perform our missions," says the commander of the air force's 'Yellow Bird Knights' squadron, identified as Lt Col Y.
© Lockheed Martin
Planned to enable the service to conduct long-range missions and perform precision airdrops, the modifications could include the addition of an inflight refuelling receptacle, which would allow Israel's new Hercules (US Air Force example pictured above) to receive fuel from its Boeing 707 tankers.
"The supply to frontline combat units is one of our main tasks, and it is becoming more complicated because of the nature of regional wars," says Col Y. During Israel's recent conflict with Lebanon, the distance between Israeli ground forces and Hizbollah militants was "zero" for delivering vital supplies such as ammunition and water, he adds.
The squadron is currently evaluating a number of precision airdrop systems, including a GPS-guided parachute that would allow loads to be dropped from an altitude of up to 25,000ft (7,620m), and use of a radiosonde, which would measure wind speeds in the target area and transmit data to the aircraft's computer to calculate accurate release information for the crew. A selection will be made soon. Tel Aviv is also looking to increase its crew requirement for the C-130J from two pilots and one loadmaster to potentially add a third pilot, flight engineer or navigator. The air force says each of its fully equipped C-130Js will cost $103 million.
© Israeli air force magazine
While the C-130J will replace Israel's E-model Hercules, Col Y says planned upgrades to some of its C-130Hs (pictured above) means "we plan to fly them until 2025".