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USAF and Lockheed nearing deal on five-year C-130J purchase

Lockheed Martin is close to securing a multi-year contract for C-130J procurement with the US air force, with the company saying a verbal agreement has been reached with the service for 78 firm orders, plus five contract options.

That total includes 72 aircraft for the USAF and six KC-130J tankers for the US Marine Corps, according to the company. The US Coast Guard would exercise the contract options if it decides to continue updating from its HC-130H search-and-rescue fleet.

The air force order includes a mix of stretched-fuselage C-130J-30 tactical transports and HC/MC-130J derivatives – some of which will be converted into AC-130J gunships.

If signed, the multi-billion-dollar deal would secure orders for 16-17 aircraft a year. When supplemented with international purchases, the production line in Marietta, Georgia, will be maintained at an annual rate of 24 aircraft.

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Speaking at a conference in Washington DC in September, Lockheed vice-president and general manager of C-130 programmes George Shultz said the expected new USAF order “anchors and secures the production line for the next five years”, and also would provide a 10% saving to the government over previous contracts.

Despite the verbal agreement, the continuing budget resolution recently passed by US lawmakers, which temporarily maintains government spending at fiscal year 2015 levels, could put the air force’s multi-year contracting plans on hold until a final budget agreement is reached.

According to Shultz, just over 340 C-130Js have been delivered to 16 nations to date. Internationally, the production plant is currently building J-models for India, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, South Korea and Tunisia. With the US government as an anchor, Shultz says there are many opportunities for legacy C-130 operators to also begin updating their fleets.

In the US, deliveries are continuing to Dyess AFB in Texas and Little Rock AFB in Arkansas, while US Special Forces examples are going to Moody AFB in Georgia and RAF Mildenhall in the UK. The USMC, Shultz said, has finished replacing its older active-duty aircraft, and is now recapitalising the reserve force.

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