The US Air Force is set finally to release a request for proposals (RFP) by March for the Lockheed Martin C-130X avionics upgrade, but selection of a new engine for the Lockheed C-5A/B Galaxy transport has been delayed.

According to the USAF's Air Systems Command, a revised draft RFP for the avionics upgrade will be issued by early February, to be followed within a month by a final request. This is expected to call for submissions within 60 days. An avionics modernisation programme (AMP) bidders' conference is set for 8-9 February.

Lockheed Martin has confirmed that it is teaming with Rockwell Collins for the competition. The three other likely bidders are BAE Systems, teamed with Snow Aviation, Boeing and Raytheon. Honeywell, meanwhile, is positioning itself as a supplier.

The C-130X RFP was expected in October following release of the first draft (Flight International, 22-28 September 1999). The five-month delay is blamed on cost escalation of the projected cost of upgrading 510 C-130E/H transport and special operations aircraft.

Part of the problem has been the specification of the global air traffic management systems required to operate in a modern communications, navigation and surveillance/ air traffic management environment. One potential bidder has questioned whether the planned upgraded navigation and communication systems have included the provision for automatic dependence surveillance-broadcast compatibility.

Standardising the USAF's 44 C-130 configurations around a common avionics package was budgeted at around $4.2 billion, but this has reportedly ballooned to $5 billion. Unless the air force can secure more funds, the number of C-130s to be upgraded will have to be reduced to 400 or less. "The numbers are still a little bit fluid," says the USAF.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has delayed release of a formal RFP for re-engining some or all of the USAF's 126 C-5A/B transports. The company is waiting for the air force to complete its studies and acquisition plan before selecting a new, 50,000lb (222kN)-thrust, powerplant.

The deal is potentially for 530 engines, worth $4-5 billion, and will be contested by General Electric, offering the CF6-80C2, Pratt & Whitney, with the PW4168, and Rolls-Royce, offering the Trent 500 or RB211-535E4D. An engine selection was due by the end of last year.

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, has test flown the first C-5 to be equipped with a traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS).

The TCAS forms the first element of a planned C-5 avionics modernisation programme awarded in January last year.

Source: Flight International