Jamie Hunter
Lockheed Martin is still pushing the capabilities of its C-130J as it strives to secure new sales and extend production at its Marietta production facility in Georgia, US. The manufacturer has official figures of 186 aircraft ordered, with 150 delivered and a backlog of 36.
C-130J production has been extended out to March 2010 following a recent firm fixed-price contract modification worth just over $64 million for one additional KC-130J for the US Marines, adding to a previous follow-on deal for four FY06 supplemental aircraft (three USAF C-130Js and one USMC KC-130J).

New potential sales rest on export to several defined customers, as well as additional potential home-grown sales to the USAF and Marine Corps.
Jim Grant, vice-president of air mobility and special forces for Lockheed Martin, told Flight Show Daily: “We have potential sales with the armed forces of Canada for 17 aircraft, as well as Norway for four, six aircraft for the Indian Air Force and four-to-six from Israel.”
He also says the US Marines are looking at a potential long-term plan to move to an all-KC-130J fleet, despite current aims to upgrade some of its existing ‘legacy’ KC-130s under the Boeing-led Avionics Modernisation Programme (AMP).

In addition, the USAF special operations command (AFSOC) has outlined a requirement for 115 aircraft to replace its HC-130N/P tankers and MC-130E/P transports, with deliveries planned to begin in 2011. The HC/MC-130 recapitalisation programme will augment and eventually replace the current ‘special ops’ C-130s, with C-130J well in the frame here.
Lockheed Martin has said that it will approach the replacement programme through a spiral development, building from the basic addition of a FLIR to a fully-capable ‘special operations’ J-model. With an RFP expected this summer, the USAF has listed the A400M as a potential candidate for the recapitalisation programme.

However, A400M may not be ready to meet production requirements as early as 2011. Indeed, Grant brushed off the challenge of the new Airbus, stating: “A400M is still in development, C-130J is operational.”
The USAF continues to accept its currently ordered aircraft, with the 143rd airlift wing, Rhode Island ANG, the unit providing the aircraft on static display in Paris, having now received its eighth and last C-130J. The wing has just returned from a 20-month deployment to Iraq where its C-130Js were used for ‘high tempo intra-theatre operations’. During the deployment, four C-130Js conducted 5,444 sorties over 10,750 flight hours, delivering 12,681 tonnes of cargo and carrying 70,350 passengers. Lockheed Martin is underlining the fact that the C-130J is capable of generating much greater operational efficiencies than older C-130s by flying further, faster, with more payload and higher reliability.

Lockheed Martin is now upgrading in-service C-130Js to Block 5.4 software standard, introducing new CNS/ATM capabilities. Despite USAF, RAAF and RAF aircraft operating in high-threat environments there are no immediate plans to introduce a directional infra-red countermeasures (DIRCM) capability to the C-130J.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has, according to Grant, been in “low level discussions” with Lockheed Martin over one attrition replacement aircraft to cover the C-130J that was lost earlier this year in an incident in Iraq. Despite the RAF retiring its C-130K models at a steady rate, it would appear unlikely that an interim C-130J buy will be forthcoming as it eagerly awaits its A400Ms.
Meanwhile, the Italian AF is now modifying six of its C-130Js to operate as roll-on/roll-off tanker platforms.

Source: Flight Daily News