Lockheed Martin and electronics and systems partner Northrop Grumman claim they have significant interest from five countries for their C-130J-30 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) variant.

Speaking at the show, Dana Pierce, Lockheed Martin's director AEW&C, says Australia is the potential lead customer, with Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain also showing considerable interest.

The next tranche of customers could be Far Eastern, with Thailand and Malaysia looking likely candidates.

Despite European involvement with Nato's AWACS system, many countries want to have their own, independent, low-risk, high-performance and cost-effective capability, he says.

The Australian decision is expected in September 1999. If it decides to go down the AEW&C route - rather than the solutions offered by Boeing (767/737) or Airbus (A310) - the first aircraft could be delivered in 2001/02.

Pierce says that equipping an air force with from four to six examples of the new aircraft would cost between $550million and $1 billion, depending on the number ordered and the radar equipment levels.

"With this number of aircraft," he says, "air forces will be able to provide full, 24-hours a day... 365 days a year, coverage."



Using radar (and a rotor-dome) provided by Lockheed Martin's Ocean Radar and Sensor Systems in Syracuse, the electronics and systems are developed by Northrop Grumman from those currently in use in the E-2C Hawkeye and the Boeing E-8 Joint STARS.

There would also be high commonality in logistics and spares with the existing worldwide C-130 fleet.

The teething problems with the C-130J, which have affected testing and deliveries, wouldn't delay the potential in-service date for the AEW&C version, says Pierce. "The radar and rotor-dome have already flown on a C-130H and we envisage no difficulties whatsoever."

The entire crew operating area is modular, incorporating an isolated and acoustically treated rest area, full service galley and airline-standard lavatory. The tactical command centre will have up to 12 console workstations (based on a Windows environment and equipment already in use on the E-2C Hawkeye), while reduced noise levels and a shirt-sleeve working environment should help to reduce stress levels.

Airborne surveillance and control capabilities would include automatic detection and tracking using radar and IFF; ESM for long-range detection and classification; and real-time track correlation from all sources.

With an on-station time of more than 13 hours without refuelling, and considerable growth capacity, the C-130J-30 could provide an alternative - and relatively cheap - AEW option well into the 21st century.

Source: Flight Daily News