Lockheed Martin has unveiled the first public image of a widened version of the C-130 that could be offered for sale to the US Air Force within five years.
Dubbed the C-130XL, the project remains under study by Lockheed's Aeronautics division in Marietta, Georgia, the site of C-130 production dating back to 1954.
The aircraft could be offered to meet an emerging US Air Force need for a larger version of an intratheater airlifter after 2015. Boeing is already proposing to augment the C-130 fleet with the C-17B, which includes higher-thrust engines, larger flaps and a third main landing gear. EADS North America wants to offer the Airbus A400M for the same requirement.
Lockheed Martin has proposed widening the fuselage of the C-130J Hercules to meet emerging US Air Force requirements after 2015.
Jim Grant, Lockheed's vice president for air mobility and special operations, said the C-130XL would be sized to carry a maximum cargo payload in the "mid-60,000lb" range. Lockheed wants to avoid setting a specific figure until it can determine the USAF
's "sweet-spot" for future cargo needs, he added.
The USAF has acknowledged it may need an aircraft with more payload capacity than the C-130 after 2015. The US Army currently plans to acquire manned ground vehicles for brigade combat teams equipped with the Boeing Future Combat System that exceed the C-130's payload limits.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J represents the current size of Lockheed Martin's venerable airlifter.