Lockheed toupgrade exported C-130J fleet

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Lockheed Martin has received a $110 million contract to conduct a wide-ranging systems upgrade to the more than 60 C-130J tactical transports in service with all four export customers for the type, writes Craig Hoyle.

Australia, Denmark, Italy and the UK are to share the cost of conducting the so-called Block 6.1 modernisation effort, with the UK Royal Air Force to head the project as the largest non-US operator of the C-130J, with 25 of the aircraft in service. The nations have ordered a combined total of 63 C-130Js and stretched C-130J-30s, all but one of which - a fourth aircraft for Denmark - have now been delivered.

The upgrade will centre largely on safety enhancements, with key upgrades to be made to the aircraft's communications and navigation equipment and identification friend-or-foe systems. Additional modifications will include the integration of common flight management, terrain awareness warning and diagnostics systems, Lockheed says. The partner air forces are also to receive a loading ramp enhancement to enable them to airdrop equipment from high altitude, it adds.

Installation work will start during the second quarter of 2009, with much of the content of the multinational upgrade already contained within a contracted Block 6.0 modernisation effort for the US Air Force.

The Italian air force's 22C-130Js assigned to the 46th Air Brigade in Pisa have now logged more than 50,000 flight hours, including missions in support of Italian troops deployed in out-of-area missions in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.