The USAir Force has launched a $3.9 billion C-130 Avionics Modernisation Programme (AMP) by awarding Boeing a $485 million contract to develop upgrade kits. The USAF plans to upgrade 519 C-130Es and Hs between 2005 and 2014, extending their service lives by 20-30 years. The AMP will limit the number of new C-130Js the USAF needs to 125-130, to replace the oldest C-130Es, which will be retired.

The upgrade programme will begin with the C-130H2, which represents the "middle of the road" between the older E and newer H3, says USAFC-130AMP programme manager Col Rod Earehart. Boeing will modify two C-130H2s for flight testing, with the first flying in the fourth quarter of 2004. A single special-operations MC-130H Combat Talon II will also be modified for testing, flying in the third quarter of 2005.

Beginning with Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft, and working unit by unit, Boeing-produced upgrade kits will be installed in equal numbers at three sites: the USAF's Warner-Robbins and Ogden Air Logistics Centers and Boeing Aerospace Support in San Antonio, Texas. The upgrade involves stripping the cockpit and installing new mission computers, controls and displays, including read-up displays.

Boeing has begun marketing the upgrade to other C-130 operators worldwide. Lockheed Martin says it believes the market for 300 new C-130Js, with more than 100 for international customers, will not be impacted by the AMP. "It was always in the plan for the US to upgrade its aircraft," the company says.

Source: Flight International