Lockheed Martin will adapt the KC-130J into a highly-specialized fleet of airlifters and tankerers for the US Air Force and Special Operations Command.
A $470 million contract announced today buys the first six modified KC-130Js. But the true value of the deal could be much higher. The contract opens the door for Lockheed to sell as many as 115 more C-130Js to replace Vietnam-era C-130s serving special missions.
“These awards begin the recapitalization of the air force's aging fleet of combat search rescue and special operations forces HC/MC-130 aircraft,” a US Air Force statement says.
The deal also eliminates the prospect of a competition in the near-term. The USAF needs to replace its oldest tanker aircraft after 2010. That timing prevented EADS North America from offering the Airbus A400M, which will still be in development. But the deal also may not preclude the USAF from holding a competition after a few years pass.
Lockheed must make six major modifications to the Block 6.5 KC-130J. Lockheed is adding an extended service life wing, an enhanced cargo handling system, a boom refuelling receptacle, an electro-optic/infrared sensor, a combat systems operator station on the flight deck and armor.
Lockheed has already delivered slight more than 100 C-130Js to the USAF, US Marine Corps and US Coast Guard.