Israel's first Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport has been painted in customer markings, and will be delivered to the nation's air force in late 2013 or early 2014.
Pictured at Lockheed's Marietta production site in Georgia, USA, aircraft 661 is one of three stretched-fuselage C-130J-30s to have been ordered by Israel in 2010. The nation's air force says it needs to acquire more of the type, and late last year began talks with the manufacturer about the possible purchase of another three. The type will be named "Samson" in Israeli service.
Both images: Lockheed Martin
Earlier this year, a C-130J from the US Air Force's 37th Airlift Squadron landed at Nevatim air base to perform a joint drill with the squadrons operating Israel's current fleet of older C-130E/Hs. Performed between 27 January and 8 February, the deployment was partly intended to assist Israeli pilots who will transition on to the J-model Hercules.
"They flew with us and we talked about some of our different procedures and tactics and the way we employ the C-130J," said USAF Capt Brett Polage.
Israel's Samson airlifters will be delivered with a three-person cockpit configuration, similar to that used by US examples intended to support special forces operations. Its transports also will be modified for the future installation of some Israeli-developed equipment.
Eighteen Hercules are in Israel's current air force inventory, with Flightglobal's MiliCAS database recording 16 of these as being in active service. This total includes six C-130Es, which will be phased out as the new-generation examples enter use.
The nation's six H-model transports and four KC-130H tankers will continue to be flown, following structural treatment including the replacement of centre wing boxes on some examples.