The US Air Force has formally launched the $4.2 billion avionics modernisation programme (AMP) to upgrade 510 Lockheed Martin C-130E/H transport and special operations aircraft, with the release of a draft request for proposals (RFP).

Four system integrators have emerged to bid for the upgrade. They are soliciting teaming partners and suppliers ahead of the 16 October release of a final RFP.

Raytheon has selected Honeywell and Batelle, while Marconi and its US subsidiary, Tracor, are understood to have joined forces with Snow Aviation.

A Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems-led team includes sister companies Federal Systems, Skunk Works, and Aircraft and Logistics Centre.

Boeing has not revealed its partners. Rockwell Collins confirms it has received RFPs from all four contenders to supply individual systems. Other potential C-130AMP avionics suppliers include AlliedSignal, Flight Visions and Smiths Industries. The emphasis is on commercial-off-the-shelf systems.

Baseline C-130E/H requirements are to upgrade the cockpit with glass displays, autopilot, flight management systems and night vision goggle compatible lighting. Also stipulated is a new weather radar, global positioning and terrain and traffic collision avoidance systems and global air traffic management (GATM) compatible VHF, HF and satellite communications.

The USAF plans contract award in March, leading to first flight in 2003, with production modification starting the following year with C-130H2s and ending with C-130Es in 2012. The plan is to bring all 44 air force variants to a common avionics configuration.

A decision is also expected in October on a GATM upgrade of the USAF's 544 Boeing KC-135 tankers and EC/RC-135 special mission aircraft (Flight International, January 27 - February 2).

The competition is between Raytheon, teamed with Rockwell Collins, and Boeing, partnering Honeywell.

Source: Flight International