The fruits of a two-year production and marketing ramp-up on behalf of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules are now on display, with a series of milestone events occurring over the latter half of September and early October.
On 24 September, the first of 11 new HC-130Js was delivered to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The aircraft was flown by Gen Norton Schwartz, chief of staff of the US Air Force and a former C-130 pilot. Along with the delivery, the HC-130J received its official new nickname - the Combat King II.
The delivery to an operational base comes nearly 14 months after the aircraft completed first flight. It then entered an extended modification period to meet the demands of its mission, which is to support helicopters and tiltrotors rescuing downed airmen and other troops in hostile areas.
Both images © US Air Force
Lockheed is scheduled on 28 September to hand over four C-130J transports ordered by Qatar, a relatively new Hercules customer. Meanwhile, on 30 December, it will deliver the first MC-130J Combat Shadow II to the US Special Operations Command.
The MC-130J and HC-130J both operate as combat rescue tankers. The difference is that the MC-130J is flown by special operations and the HC-130J is operated by conventional flight crews in the Air Combat Command. Both types add the ability to be refuelled in-flight by a boom dispenser, among other upgrades.
The burst of C-130 deliveries to new customers and new missions is part of a three-year-old renaissance for the venerable Hercules line, which dates its original first flight to 1954. To meet recent demand, Lockheed has nearly quadrupled annual production from nine aircraft to 33 this year.
After delivering more than 130 C-130Js, Lockheed's backlog is still about 85 aircraft on 210 overall orders. More sales are still possible.
Besides additional USAF interest, other US government agencies may buy C-130s. Lockheed has confirmed interest from the US Forestry Service to buy up to 24 C-130Js to serve as large water-bombers for fighting forest fires. A business case on whether to lease or buy the C-130Js is due to be complete by end-year.
Lockheed also is targeting additional sales in Africa, the Middle East, India and Israel.