Lockheed Martin is seeking new foreign military sales of the C-130J Hercules, including Egypt and Portugal, to shore up production until deliveries to the US Air Force and US Marine Corps from a forthcoming multi-year procurement begin to increase output.

The order backlog for the C-130J has shrunk to 28 aircraft, with 90 delivered. Lockheed Martin wants to finalise a multi-year procurement by year-end for 40 more USAF CC-130Js stretched transports and 24 USMC KC-130Js in-flight refuellers, with deliveries over six years starting with four tankers in 2004. "We will see a bathtub in deliveries before the multi-year kicks in. We can stay at 12 aircraft a year, but would like to be at 16. We're working to bring in new international opportunities," says Jim Grant, Lockheed Martin senior director, domestic market development.

Letters of request are expected from Portugal for eight aircraft and Egypt for six, while Lockheed Martin hopes Denmark will exercise its option for a fourth. The US multi-year deal will help stabilise production of the aircraft in the long term, with the USAF needing 168 aircraft and the USMC another 51. The Air Force Special Operation Forces will also need up to 54 Combat Talon III aircraft (Flight International, 3-9 September).

The USAF, meanwhile, is expected to commission a follow-on report to the mobility requirements study 2005, which was completed in late 2000, in the wake of  11 September and the war in Afghanistan. The previous report identified a need for a 54.5 million ton miles (87.2 million t/km) daily airlift capability, a10% increase that could be met by re-engining 50 Lockheed C-5Bs and expanding the Boeing C-17 fleet to 180 aircraft.

The new study will factor in homeland defence needs and the US Army transformation, which is likely to extend the need for airlift. Options include upgrading up to 110 C-5M Super Galaxies, including 60 older C-5As, and acquiring another 42 C-17s in addition to the 60 recently ordered.

Source: Flight International