The Italian air force plans to exercise additional options for the stretched Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules, further reducing its requirement for the Airbus Military Company A400M.

Italy plans to deploy two Hercules squadrons equipped with 12 C-130Js and 12 C130J-30s. "We have 20 aircraft on contract and, using options, will reach 24," says Col Stefano Fort, chief of the air staff logistics department.

The air force is to convert two stretched C-130J-30 options imminently and intends to exercise a second pair of options later. This is on top of the order for two C-130J-30s placed in December. Six of the 18 C-130Js on firm order will be converted to the stretched versions.

The C-130Js and an order for 12 Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems C-27Js to equip a third transport squadron have eroded the air force's requirement for 44 A400Ms.

"There will be a place for the A400M. There is a lot of army equipment that can't be lifted by the C-130 or commercial jets, but there is no longer space for 44 A400Ms. The number will be dramatically reduced, to no more than a squadron," says Fort.

The first six C-130Js are due for delivery from July, coinciding with the initial retirement of 12 C-130Hs. Fort says the air force hopes to be on contract for the C-27Js by the end of this year and to take delivery of the first aircraft in November next year.

In return, Alenia will take back the air force's 34 surviving G222s (from which the C-27J is developed), of which 22-24 could be remarketed. The G222 is on offer to Australia and Malaysia.

Source: Flight International