Lockheed Martin plans to deliver around 30 C-130Js by the end of the year, following the handover of the first aircraft to the Royal Air Force at Marietta, Georgia, on 24 August. The company also plans to complete re-engineering of the C-130J assembly line by the end of the year, to reduce cyle time and costs. "To capture the market, we need to reduce the price," says Bill Bullock, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems.

Although it has orders for 83 aircraft, plus options for 63 more, the company needs to secure more orders by next year if it is to maintain the current production rate of around two a month.

The 25 RAF aircraft - 10 standard C-130Js and 15 stretched C-130J-30s - will be delivered by early 2000.

Delivery of 12 aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force will begin following civil certification of the C-130J, now expected by early September. Delivery of 28 aircraft on order for the USAF and US Marine Corps is to begin in October. Italy has 18 C-130Js on order for delivery starting in 2000.

The first RAF C-130J arrived at the Defence Research and Evaluation Agency Boscombe Down on 26 August for military readiness testing. The second aircraft will be displayed at the Farnborough air show before going on to Boscombe Down. Squadron deliveries are expected to begin "between March and May" next year, Bullock says.

Deliveries were originally scheduled to begin in November 1996, and negotiations on contract penalties continue with the UK Ministry of Defence, Bullock says. Lockheed Martin was "very naive" to believe it could develop and certificate the C-130J, which has new engines and avionics, on the original schedule, he admits.

The first RAF aircraft, which was used in the flight test programme, is still instrumented and will be returned to Lockheed Martin for refurbishment to production standard after completion of the Boscombe Down testing .

Source: Flight International