Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

LOCKHEED MARTIN is to add aircraft and increase flying in a bid to recover delays in flight-testing the C-130J Hercules 2. The second C-130J had its first flight on 4 June - only the programme's second since the delayed maiden flight of the first aircraft on 5 April.

Al Hansen, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, says that the company proposes to add three C-130Js to the five-aircraft certification flight-test programme. Each aircraft is now scheduled to be flown on two 8h test-flights a week, instead of the originally planned single 5h mission.

With these changes, Hansen believes, Lockheed Martin should be able to deliver the first C-130Js to the Royal Air Force, US Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force on a schedule understood to be "very close" to the original. Avionics-integration problems had caused the first flight to be delayed from late 1995 and certification from late 1996 to mid-1997.

The planned increase in flight-test tempo is based on the reliability observed on the first two flights, Hansen says. The second aircraft was returned from its 6h 14min first flight with "only one minor discrepancy", he says. Lockheed Martin plans to have three C-130Js flying by the end of June and hopes to accumulate up to 50h a month per aircraft, instead of an originally planned 15h based on its previous flight-test experience.

"It could be we will not need eight aircraft," Hansen says. The three additional aircraft would be used for reliability testing towards the end of the certification programme. "We have alerted customers to a potential schedule slip, but we have the opportunity to recover lost time," he says.

Lockheed Martin is responding to a Turkish air force request for proposals for three airborne early-warning (AEW) aircraft, offering a version of the C-130J Hercules 2. The company plans to have an AEW mission-system demonstrator available for customer evaluation by December.

A Royal Australian Air Force team has evaluated a demonstrator at the Syracuse, New York, plant, where Lockheed Martin manufactures the APS-145 radar already used in the Northrop Grumman E-2C and offered on the C-130J.

This will be incorporated in an expanded demonstrator, including systems, at the companies Marietta, Georgia, plant, says Hansen.

Australia has a stated requirement for AEW aircraft and is expected to issue a request for information in the near future, after which it plans to award study contracts to interested bidders. Hansen says that a South Korean air force RFP for four to six AEW aircraft is expected "any day now".

Source: Flight International