Thailand plans to launch an avionics upgrade programme for its Lockheed Martin C-130 transport fleet within the next few months and is now evaluating proposals from several potential suppliers.

Thai Aviation Industries (TAI) expects to receive later this month a $23 million contract to lead an upgrade to six Royal Thai Air Force C-130 Hercules over the next three years. TAI says it received proposals last month from about 12 companies interested in supplying new avionics and helping it with in-country installations. The company plans to select a foreign partner around June and to start joint engineering work in July.

The first kit will be delivered in mid -2007 for installation at TAI by the foreign partner. Subsequent aircraft will be upgraded by its own technicians with TAI tooling, but with supervision from the foreign partner. TAI says the upgrade includes global air traffic management (GATM) equipment required for operations in Europe, including new radios, navigation devices and radar. The kit will also include an autopilot and a flight management system.

Industry sources say the limited budget has prevented several companies from bidding, including Lockheed. TAI initially handed a request for proposals to 16 companies and acknowledges only 11 or 12 that have responded meet the budget.

After the sixth aircraft is completed in 2009, Thailand plans to launch a second phase that will include another six C-130s. TAI began maintaining Thailand’s C-130 fleet in 2004 and its technicians recently received programme depot maintenance training from Malaysia’s Airod and Singapore Technologies Aerospace.

■ Bangladesh also has kicked off a competition to select a company to conduct an overseas GATM upgrade to one of its C-130s.

Source: Flight International