The US Air Force will take delivery of its first HC-130J combat rescue tanker later this year, with the aircraft having emerged at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta production plant in Georgia on 3 April.

Pictured leaving the main assembly building ahead of painting, the aircraft will soon enter production flight testing, says Lockheed.

“The HC-130J will meet an initial operating capability date in mid-2012,” it adds.

 HC-130J tanker
© Lockheed Martin

The USAF’s Air Combat Command has ordered its first two of a planned 18 HC-130Js, and will also acquire 26 MC-130J tankers, as listed in Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database.

Lockheed began assembly work on the first HC-130J last October, with the aircraft intended to support future search and rescue operations by the USAF. With an increased maximum take-off weight of over 74t, the variant also features an improved wing design.

Source: Flight International