Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) plans to develop a Lockheed Martin C-130 avionics upgrade programme for operators seeking modernisation alternatives cheaper than the package Boeing is developing for the US Air Force.

President Tay Kok Khiang says ST Aero is in talks with several potential launch customers and partners for a C-130 upgrade that includes "at a minimum, enhancements to reliability and obsolescence problems". The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is seeking an upgrade to bring its mixed fleet of 10 C-130Es and C-130Hs to a common configuration, but ST Aero says the RSAF will "not necessarily" launch its programme.

"We have come up with various options that we are in talks with various customers on," Tay says.

ST Aero has held discussions with several possible suppliers, including BAE Systems, Elbit Systems, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Industry sources say some larger companies, including BAE, are trying to convince ST Aero to forge a joint venture, but so far the company is only looking for subcontractors.

"We prefer to be prime because of the fact it enables us to really influence the outcome of the programme," Tay says.

IAI and Lockheed Martin have begun developing their own C-130 avionics upgrade packages while Boeing is working on the more comprehensive Avionics Modernisation Programme for the US Air Force, which is believed to be too costly to yield many sales outside the USA. BAE and Raytheon have been looking for ways to enter the market since losing the US competition with Boeing in 2001.

ST Aero is already partnered with BAE and Lockheed Martin on an F-16C/D cockpit upgrade programme. A prototype flew in February 2002 and ST Aero continues to add capabilities to the product.

"Because of the slow market there's been no serious takers so far, although there are one, two or three parties we are talking to with Lockheed Martin," Tay says.

Source: Flight International