Lockheed Martin is confident that the Canadian Forces, operator of the oldest C-130 fleet in the world, will select its C-130J-30 Super Hercules as part of its armed forces modernisation programme. The country's statement of intent and qualifications bidding phase ended last week. Other candidates include the Airbus Military A400M.
The 17-aircraft deal with a 20-year sustainment package would generate more than $4 billion for Lockheed, and comes at time when the company needs new orders to keep its 1,200-person C-130J production line in Marietta at full swing. Although the $60 million aircraft takes only 20 days to complete once all items are on the production floor, long lead items - primarily the cargo bay floor and the engine truss mount forgings - take three years to produce. Given that the current backlog of 41 aircraft will be completed in just over three years, the company needs a new order this year to keep up its production pace after 2009.
Lockheed has built 145 of the aircraft, which in addition to modernised avionics, features new Rolls-Royce engines and six-bladed propellers, says Greg Ulmer, Lockheed's deputy programme manager for the C-130J programme. Twelve aircraft a year are being built, although the line is capable of producing three times as many, says Ulmer.