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Israel prepares for renewal of Lockheed Martin C-130 fleet

Israel plans to use the results of a survey of the actual flight hours accumulated by its air force Lockheed Martin C-130s to support a decision on whether to replace them with latest-generation C-130Js.

The analysis uses an algorithm developed by Lockheed and the US Air Force designed to determine the stresses experienced by each of the air force's C-130E/Hs since they entered service.

The air force operates its C-130s under extreme conditions, performing low flights over desert areas and take-offs and landings on improvised strips.

The air force wants at least four to six C-130Js to replace C-130Es that are approaching 45 years of age and were given to Israel by the USA from its surplus Vietnam inventory.

Boeing is trying to convince the Israeli air force to commit to an upgrade programme that would include replacing the aircraft's centre wing boxes and wiring, prolonging their operational lives by 20 years.

"The US Air Force is using the same upgrade programme and it is a proven solution," says a Boeing source.

The Israeli general staff is expected to make a decision in early 2007 as part of its annual procurement package. An air force source says one option is to purchase a "limited" number of C-130Js to replace the service's oldest C-130Es.

The service has, in the meantime, outlined the special systems package that it wants to install on the C-130J. This includes systems to be used in special operations, such as elements of the Rafael Litening targeting system. This would enhance the C-130J's ability to perform very low night flights.

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