Boeing has begun talks with the US Air Force on a potential plan to dramatically expand the scope of the C-130 Avionics Modernization Programme (AMP).

The discussions are aimed at restoring cockpit upgrades for 169 C-130s mostly operated by US Special Operations Command, said Mark Angelo, Boeing's C-130 AMP programme manager. The USAF removed those aircraft from the programme in 2005 to save costs following major development problems.

The USAF has also set aside funding to support the enlarged programme, but has yet to receive approval by the Department of Defense to launch the acquisition.

If the proposal moves forward, it could pose interesting new questions for the acquisition strategy. USAF officials will face a choice of whether to award a sole-source contract to Boeing or open the programme to its competitors.

Boeing argues that a sole source deal would be justified. By the time the programme was rebaselined in 2005, the company had completed about 80% of the development work on the specialized SOCOM and older C-130H1 cockpits, Angelo said.

On the other hand, the USAF is committed to a competitive sourcing strategy in the baseline programme, which includes cockpit upgrades for 221 C-130H2 to C-130H3 aircraft operated by conventional USAF units.

Boeing has been awarded development and low rate production contracts for the baseline C-130 AMP programme. However, the USAF plans to hold a competition to decide the winner during the full-rate production phase starting in Fiscal 2012.

The low-rate production contracts calls for the installation of 24 AMP kits. Boeing will produce all of the kits and install 11. The USAF depot at Warner-Robins AFB also will install 11 kits. The other two kits will be installed by two contractors interested in bidding for the full-rate production phase, as a means for the bidders to gain familiarity with the C-130 AMP system.

Boeing is in the last two months of the system development and demonstration phase of the programme, having delivered three flight test aircraft so far, Angelo said. The first two LRIP kits will be delivered in October and December.

Source: Flight International