EUROPEAN NATIONS involved in the Future Large Aircraft (FLA) programme have rebuffed an offer from Lockheed Martin to merge their project into a joint effort to produce a turbofan-powered replacement for the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter.

Lockheed Martin Aerospace boss Mickey Blackwell led a team to Europe late in 1995 to propose that the US company rejoin a reconfigured FLA programme. The plans were rejected by the FLA partners and Airbus Industrie, which is to manage the programme through a new configuration. It is believed that talks were also held with Aerospatiale over a possible French air force purchase of Lockheed Martin C-130Js.

The talks were part of the US company's plan to find international partners to share development of a follow-on aircraft to the Starlifter for the US Air Force. This would be positioned between the C-130 and the McDonnell Douglas C-17.

Mike Smith, Lockheed Martin's vice-president of international business development, confirms that the meetings took place at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, and says that he expects the Starlifter replacement to be in service around 2010.

Airbus sources say that the rejected Lockheed Martin proposals were viewed as an attempt to delay the FLA and leave the C-130J without competition for the next 15 years.

In its present turboprop configuration, the FLA would be a direct, albeit larger, rival to the C-130J. The programme, supported by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, will be run under the auspices of Airbus.

Source: Flight International