RAAF C-130J-30, flares
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The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?

C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.

The (Private) Labors of Hercules: the C-130J Family

C-130J Hercules
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Most American planes rely on their huge home market as their base, then seek exports. The privately-developed C-130J “Super Hercules” was different. Australia, Britain, Denmark, and Italy were all ahead of the curve, and have been operating this heavily redesigned upgrade of the popular C-130 Hercules transport aircraft for several years. By the time the C-130J finally reached “initial operating capability” for the US military late in 2006, these faster-moving foreign customers were already banding together to create a common upgrade set for their serving fleets. A number of variants are currently flying in transport (C-130J), stretched transport (C-130J-30), aerial broadcaster (EC-130J), coast guard patrol (HC-130J), aerial tanker (KC-130J), special forces (MC-130J), and even hurricane hunter weather aircraft (WC-130J).

The C-130J looks a lot like its predecessors, except for the new 6-bladed Dowty propeller. In reality, a number of changes have been made to its construction and components, and its internal systems are almost wholly new. Unlike most defense programs, however, the C-130J was not a government contract. Lockheed Martin spent almost $1 billion of its own funds developing the update, then began selling it in the USA and abroad.

Base Platform: The C-130J

Super Hercules Promo
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The C-130J’s improvements are mostly clustered around 2 key characteristics: performance, and operational costs. Instead of Rolls Royce 4,600 shp T56 Series III turboprop engines, it uses lighter Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 engines, coupled with a 6-blade Dowty R-391 propeller system made of composite materials. The overall system generates 29% more thrust, while increasing fuel efficiency by 15% and offering improved reliability and maintenance. Compared to the 1960s-era C-130E (note: there was an intermediate C-130H version), maximum speed is up 21%, climb-to-altitude time is down 50%, cruising altitude is 40% higher, and range is about 40% longer.

The enhanced capacity of the “J” variant is especially noteworthy in hot climates and/or high altitude operations, where the new plane can deliver 40% better payload/range performance than earlier versions. US experience in places like Afghanistan and Iraq indicates that as many as 3 C-130H models may be required to do the job of 1 C-130J in these “hot and high” conditions.

C-130J Cockpit
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The C 130J only requires 2-3 crew members for most missions instead of 4, and avionics have been changed to incorporate more advanced capabilities into the night-vision-system compatible “glass cockpit” (computer screens, not dials) and heads-up display. A pair of mission computers and 2 backup bus interface units provide dual redundancy. Equally important, they host an integrated diagnostics system to assist with maintenance and reduce long-term ownership costs.

The interior of the C-130J has also seen a number of improvements, simplifying and automating key cargo tasks. An automated airdrop system, for instance, delivers parachute loads more precisely. These kinds of additions have dropped the crew required for airdrops from 4 to 2 (pilot, co-pilot). In addition, innovations such as flip-over rollers allow loaders to reconfigure the cargo area in about 5 minutes instead of the traditional 25, getting planes out of airstrips quickly and maximizing overall loading/unloading efficiency during larger operations.

An optional dorsal aerial refueling system can extend the C-130J’s range significantly, while optional aerial taker kits can convert the C-130J into a flying gas station that offloads fuel faster than previous KC-130 versions, and can handle both helicopters and jets due to its range of flight speeds.

Finally, the C-130J Maintenance and Aircrew Training System (MATS) is designed to complement the C-130J, adding a high-tech simulation angle to both flying and maintenance training.

The worldwide fleet of C-130Js exceeded 355,000 flight hours As of August 3/07.

C-130J vs. C-130J-30
via CASR
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The stretched C-130J-30 adds 15 feet of fuselage length over its C-130J counterpart, most of which is placed forward of the wing as the plane stretches from 97’9″ (29.3 m) to 112’9″ (34.69 m). The extra cargo space allows it to add adds 2 standard pallets (to 8), 23 litters (to 97), 8 CDS bundles (to 24), 36 combat troops (to 128), or 28 paratroopers (to 92) over C-130H/J models, and the aircraft’s maximum weight increases by 9,000 pounds (to 164,000 pounds/ 74,393 kg).

Maximum allowable cargo payload rises by a ton over the C-130J, from 42,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds/ 19,958 kg); the 36,000 pound maximum normal C-130J-30 payload is 2,000 pounds higher than the C-130J, but 500 pounds lower than the C-130H’s 36,500 pounds. Even so, the extra space comes in handy. C-130J-30s can carry 33% more pallets of equipment or supplies, 39% more combat troops, 31% more paratroopers, or 44% more aeromedical evacuation litters than previous unstretched Hercules versions. The stretched C-130J-30 also shares the C-130J’s ability to use much more of its theoretical cargo capacity in hot or high altitude environments than previous C-130 versions.

In exchange, the stretched C-130J-30 suffers a speed drop of 7 mph (410 mph at 22,000 feet) vs. the C-130J, a 2,000 foot lower ceiling (26,000 feet with full payload), and maximum range at full payload that falls by 115 miles to 1,956 miles. It does outshine the smaller C-130J when carrying only 35,000 pounds of cargo, however: its 2,417 miles is a 576 mile increase over the C-130J, and a 921 mile increase over the C-130H.

Note that except for maximum normal payload, all of the C-130J’s figures remain significantly better than the C-130H, with statistics of 366 mph cruise speed at 22,000 feet, a 23,000 foot ceiling, and range at maximum normal payload of 1,208 miles.

C-130J Variants

As one might imagine, Special Forces variants are undergoing the most change, but the platform’s versatility is also pushing Lockheed Martin toward an advanced naval variant.

AC-130J “Ghostrider”. This new gunship will be based on the MC-130J, but it won’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. It will have a 400 Amp power supply, added defensive systems, more surveillance sensors, terrain-following radar, and a Precision Strike Package (PSP).

The PSP includes a side-firing 30mm GAU-23A chain gun, wing-mounted GBU-39 GPS-guided SDB-I bombs, and laser-guided AGM-176 Griffin missiles launched from a “Gunslinger” attachment on the rear cargo door. It may eventually add a side-firing 105mm howitzer like existing AFSOC AC-130H/Us, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles like the USMC’s KC-130J Harvest Hawks, but those aren’t currently funded. These weapons will be controlled from a dual-console Mission Operator Pallet in the cargo bay, which will include multiple video, data, and communication links.

Ghostrider surveillance equipment will include 2 day/night surveillance and targeting pods and a ground-looking synthetic aperture radar pod, tied into the pilot’s helmet-mounted display. Defensive systems will include the AN/ALR-56M radar warning receiver, AN/AAR-47(V)2 missile warning system, and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system, along with standard options like fuel tank foam, system redundancy, and some armoring.

One sore point is its comparative lack of armor compared to the AC-130H/U, with no armoring for the Mission Operator Pallet and just 7.62mm level protection elsewhere. Most AC-130s brought down in Vietnam were killed by 37mm guns.

HC/MC-130J Increment 1. Modifications include additional defensive countermeasure dispensers, high-altitude ramp and door hydraulics, a 4th flight deck crew member station, an extra intercom panel and 60-Hertz electrical outlets in the cargo compartment.

HC/MC-130J Increment 2. Includes increased 28-volt direct current internal power capacity, crash-worthy loadmaster scanner-position seats, and provisions for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures defensive systems. This is as high as the HC-130J Combat King IIs are expected to go, though they’ll also receive a T-1 communications modification with a Specialized Automated Mission Suite/Enhanced Situational Awareness system (SAMS/ESA: SADL data link, High Power Waveform, and Air Force Tactical Radio System-Ruggedized), Blue Force Tracker, and the Joint Precision Airdrop System.

HC/MC-130J Increment 3. Includes a 400 Amp power supply, dual special mission processors, and a secure file server. MC-130J Commando IIs will be improved to Increment 3.

SC-130J Sea Herc

SC-130J MPRA. A proposed maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, created by moving a number of P-3 Orion systems onto and into the C-130J. A Magnetic Anomaly Detector boom is installed in the tail for submarine detection, along with a sonobuoy storage pallet and 2 rotary launchers in the rear interior. A day/night surveillance turret goes under the nose, a 360 maritime radar is mounted under the fuselage, and ESM electronics for pinpointing and geolocating radars, communications, etc. are mounted via on wingtip pods and fore and aft fuselage points. A set of roll-in console modules would contain the necessary electronics and screens to manage it all.

Countries that wanted to go beyond surveillance would push further development to add wing hardpoints for torpedoes and missiles, and/or a weapons bay and torpedo racks in the front fuselage.

C-130J operator Britain is Lockheed Martin’s biggest SC-130J target, and the plane’s flexibility could appeal to others who see the value in fleet commonality and good mid-range performance, with easier upgradeability than standard MPAs. The downside is that the C-130J is designed for short-field performance first, and efficient cruising operation second. That will make it expensive to operate compared to smaller twin-engine competitors, which are typically derived from commercial light cargo and passenger aircraft. The Airbus ATR-72 MPA is an example of a larger competitor that also follows this pattern; ATRs have won significant share in the mid-range regional airline market on the strength of their operating efficiency.

The Value of Variants

KC-130J’s “gunslinger”
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These variants and kits give the C-130J an edge in the global market, and will help Lockheed Martin retain that edge as the 20-ton tactical transport market starts to get crowded in 2020 or so. The type’s strong Special Forces niche has already helped to close orders with export clients like India, who could easily have chosen additional orders of plane types already in its fleet (AN-32, IL-76). The second big edge for the platform is a related niche: multi-role armed transports that can deliver troops and supplies, then provide close-air support for counterinsurgency fights. The KC-130J’s Harvest HAWK kits, and C-130H-derived MC-130W Dragon Spear, offer prospective customers an important set of clip-on capabilities that none of its major competitors (A400M, KC-390, MRTA) are even designing, let alone fielding. The SC-130J maritime patrol option could become a similar kind of selling point.

Those “ecosystem strengths” are going to become more important in future. The C-130XJ, unveiled in December 2011 at the Credit Suisse aerospace and defense conference in New York, NY, may not offer enough savings by itself to prompt orders from target customers like South Africa. A cheaper base aircraft, plus existing modifications available on the market, is more appealing. Likewise, the C-130NG could sell among existing C-130J customers, but its changes by themselves might still leave it lagging behind the price of low-cost turboprop options like China’s Y-9, behind the performance of new jet-powered rivals like Embraer’s multinational KC-390 and HAL/Irkut’s MRTA, and very much behind the capacity of Airbus’ larger A400M.

The existence of clip-on kits and proven specialty variants may have to sell it, instead. Especially if the C-130NG also fails to resolve the biggest limitation in today’s medium tactical transport field…

Turbulent Flight: The C-130J Program

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The privately-developed Hercules variant has been the subject of heavy criticism and a 2005 near-death budget experience, followed by its reinstatement by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on the stated grounds that canceling the contract would be almost as expensive as completing it – though a later government report established that its cancellation costs were wildly overstated.

In order to comply with the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, however,Air Force Print News reported that the C-130J contract was converted from the existing commercial item procurement to a traditional military procurement in FY 2006. In technical terms, it was converted from a Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12 to an FAR Part 15 contract, which includes much more extensive Congressional oversight and cost reporting requirements. In bottom line terms, this involved repricing 39 aircraft, resulting in net savings anywhere from $170-245 million (reports vary). Under the restructured contract, the Air Force said Lockheed cut the program cost by 8% for the remaining 26 Air Force C-130Js, and nearly 12% for 13 Marine KC-130Js.

The Wall Street Journal reported this as a decision by Lockheed Martin to cut its profit margins on the plane, after investing $1 billion in private funds to develop it. Lockheed spokesman Tom Jurkowsky was quoted as saying that “national defense outweighs the continued recovery of funds we invested in its development.” It’s widely suspected in reports from Associated Press et. al. that direct criticism of the FAR Part 12 contract by Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] played a role as well.


Since FY 2006, American C-130J orders have continued, and the aircraft has continued to expand its export successes as well. C-130J aircraft are now flown and/or under contract by the USAF and Air National Guard, US Marines, and US Coast Guard; and by Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Tunisia. DSCA requests that have yet to become publicly-announced contracts include Mexico (2012), Libya (2013), and Brunei (2014).

According to official Pentagon documents, the C-130J’s past and planned American budget breakdowns include:

Note that each year’s procurement budget almost always includes advance “long-lead time material” orders for the next fiscal year. That way, once the main contract is issued, construction isn’t delayed by long waits for predictable items.

The C-130J and the 20-ton Bottleneck

RAF C-130J & friends
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The C-130J offers a genuine improvement over past versions of the Hercules, especially in hot and/or high-altitude environments where all aircraft lose lift and carrying capacity. It has proven these capabilities during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where its additional reserves of power have come in very handy on the front lines.

On the other hand, the ability to fit into tactical transports is a very common requirement and benchmark for ground systems, including armored personnel carriers. Billions have been spent on R&D for the wheeled Stryker armored vehicle family, and for the USA’s $160+ billion Future Combat Systems MGV armored vehicle family. Both vehicle families were sold as options that would fit into US tactical transports, in order to meet the military’s timeframe goals for deploying units to crisis situations. Both projects failed to meet their goals after spending billions in R&D, leaving the USA’s expensive C-17 fleet overworked, and achievement of the USA’s strategic deployability goals unlikely.

Unlike the pending Airbus A400M, therefore, which offers a larger interior and a 33-35 ton vehicle capacity, the C-130J doesn’t solve the sub-survivable 20-ton armored vehicle limit that has stymied multiple US armored vehicle programs. As such, it represents an improvement that fails to address US tactical airlift’s key bottleneck limitation. Meanwhile, reports from the USAF indicate that C-130Js are often flying with very little weight and/or small cargo, because the demands of counterinsurgency airlift lead to more and smaller requests from a number of front line sources.

The C-130J thus finds itself in the odd position of offering capabilities that are both too great for many tactical needs, while being too small to meet important American strategic goals. Even Special Forces worry that future air defense threats will make the C-130 non-survivable in future gunship and insertion roles.

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That’s the bad news. On the other hand, its major competitor the Airbus A400M went through major delays and contract re-negotiation in System Design & Development, and has a production backlog of over 180 aircraft as deliveries are beginning. Future competitors like the Indo-Russian MRTA, and Embraer’s multinational KC-390 are currently in even earlier R&D stages. Which means that any nations needing to replenish a 20+ ton tactical airlift fleet any time soon are limited to a choice of buying the C-130J, or purchasing old designs like Russia’s AN-12 or China’s Y-8 aircraft.

As the A400M becomes available, and the 20-ton segment begins to crowd with new offerings, the C-130J will face a very different competitive environment. Without major American C-130J buys, or establishment of the C-130J as a market leader in key segments like Special Operations, recouping its $1 billion investment would have been challenging for Lockheed Martin. Fortunately for the firm, they’ve made considerable progress toward both of these goals.

Contracts and Key Events

C-130J: SIGINT roll-on
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The USA’s JMATS contracts for C-130J simulators and training are a critical but separate component, and are covered in their own article. International customers aren’t part of JMATS, so their arrangements may be covered here.

DID has covered C-130J buys in Canada, India, Israel, Iraq, and Norway; and the UAE’s potential buy, as dedicated articles. Important milestones from those purchases may also appear here.

DID also has a separate article covering training and simulators, under the MATS, JMATS, and JMATS-II programs.

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the Headquarters Air Force Material Command (AFMC) in Wright Patterson AFB, OH; and the contractor is Lockheed Martin Corporation in Marietta, GA. Note that coverage is complete only from Jan 1/06 forward.

FY 2016

Requests: Denmark.

Kuwaiti KC-130J
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July 7/16: A laser is to be mounted on the side of the AC-130J Ghostrider instead of on the gunship’s belly in order to increase its fielding time. While this will limit the area of coverage of the weapon, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) believe they will still learn a lot about how to employ a laser in AFSOC missions. AFSOC chief Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold is also aggressively pushing the schedule for the laser gunship and plans to field a testbed by 2020 saying “Let’s go simple, let’s shoot it off the left side and eventually it will evolve.”

June 7/16: According to Joseph Fountain, supervisory contract officer with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Mobility Directorate, a multi-year contract has been signed with Lockheed Martin to procure 78 C-130J Super Hercules with the option to buy up to 83 over the next five years. Under the contract, the second multi-year deal for the C-130J, the Defense Department will save about $680 million and provide the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard with important airlift capabilities. The contract also funds an affordability program in which Lockheed receives $35 million up front and agrees to $65 million in labor reductions over the life of the contract, which according to Fountain will allow the company to assemble the aircraft more efficiently.

May 13/16: A scheduled to be retired KC-130R Hercules has been transferred to the Chilean Air Force. The plane was delivered on May 2 after being sold to Chile via the foreign military sales (FMS) route. Prior to its transfer, the plane was part of the Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20, at Patuxent River, Maryland as a test evaluation/range support platform.

An ambitious plan is being proposed by the USMC to convert all of its 79 KC-130J aerial refueling aircraft into gunships, equipped with the Harvest Hawk weapons system. The package will also be added to the service’s MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor fleets and will allow both aircraft multi-mission capabilities. For the V-22, the most obvious “Osprey Hawk” benefit is the much-improved strike capability, while the C-130J, would become a multi-mission craft, with a sensor ball allowing for route reconnaissance missions when needed.

May 11/16: South Korea is about to induct four modified C-130s into service. The program to upgrade the aircraft so that they can deploy special operation troops behind enemy lines has been delayed since 2007. Issues causing delays involved malfunctions including the land detection capabilities in multi-purpose radars on the aircraft. The planes will allow South Korean special forces to fly at low altitudes and drop special forces troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines such as North Korean nuclear and missile facilities.

February 3/16: French procurement agency DGA announced the finalizing of an order with Lockheed Martin for four C-130 aircraft. The models to be delivered are two standard C-130J transports, and two KC-130Js equipped for in-flight refueling of helicopters. While the exact figure of the deal is unknown, the core value of the deal is around $355 million, slightly more than the $340 million set aside in the revised multiyear defense budget for acquiring four C-130s. The orders will plug a growing capability gap in the French military caused by the Airbus A400M program. Development of the multi-purpose A400M has seen delays in delivery as Airbus looks to fix technical problems over inflight helicopter refueling capabilities, and for paratroopers to be able to jump from the side door.

January 29/16: Rolls-Royce Corp has been awarded two contracts by the DoD for a combined total of $153 million. The first will see the company supply twenty-four engines for Saudi Arabia’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in a foreign military sale worth $77 million. The engines will be delivered by the end of this year. Rolls will also supply C-130J propulsion system sustainment to the USAF in a deal worth $76 million. Due to be completed by this time next year, they will provide logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares, and technical data for the system.

January 21/16: Pakistan’s C-130 fleet is set to get a series of upgrades with Rockwell Collins selected to carry out the work. The Pentagon awarded the company a $30 million contract to carry out the work including the design, manufacture, integration, training, provision of technical support during installation, and delivery of 11 C-130E model kits and five C-130B integrated avionics suites and kits to Pakistan. Furthermore, they are to develop, validate, and deliver consolidated B/E flight manual and associated checklists, and maintenance supplements required to operate, maintain, and sustain the PAF C-130 fleet. All work will be carried out in Islamabad, and will be completed by the end of 2020.

January 6/16: Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems have been selected to develop a new self-protection suite for Lockheed Martin’s AC-130J and MC-130J gunships. The two electronic super weights will equip the aircraft with next-generation radio frequency countermeasure (RFCM) systems that can “detect, disrupt and defeat” anti-aircraft weapons, radars and other threats that use electromagnetic signals. While the value of the contracts are worth $32.8 million and $20 million respectively, the potential earnings for both companies could rise to $400 million each if the eight potential follow-on contracts are activated. By 2021, the USAF is expected to have thirty-seven MC-130Js and thirty-two AC-130Js ready for combat duty.

January 5/16: France has confirmed that it is to buy four C130 Hercules transport planes from Lockheed Martin. Plans to procure that aircraft are said to have been in the works since May 2015, coinciding with the crashing of an Airbus A400M that month. France, along with several other European NATO members, are set to buy the European A400M, but production delays and technical errors have seen these governments become wary of the planned procurements. Deliveries of the C130s could start as early as 2017 and would see service in missions conducted by France in Syria.

January 4/16: Multi-year funding for orders of C-130 procurement by the Pentagon has been awarded to Lockheed Martin. The first thirty-two aircraft were ordered on December 30 in a deal worth $1 billion. Up to seventy-eight will be delivered by 2020 in contracts potentially worth $5.3 billion of the company. The total order will see the US Air Force receive thirty MC-130Js, thirteen HC-130Js and twenty-nine C-130J-30s. The Marine Corps will get six KC-130Js and the Coast Guard will have the option to buy five HC-130Js.

December 18/15: France is planning to purchase four brand new C-130Js after authorization was given from the French Defense Minister. The news comes as the option to purchase second-hand C-130s from the British RAF failed to get the green light. The deal is said to exceed the $357 million set aside for the acquisition, but the remaining funds will come from adjustments made to other portions of the budget. While it is unlikely that anything will be signed before early 2016, Paris is hoping to receive delivery of the aircraft as soon as possible. The order will fill France’s need for tactical transport and in flight fueling. Other European nations such as Germany and Sweden have been helping coalition air strikes in Syria by offering refueling and transport aircraft.

November 12/15: France is looking to buy four C-130J transport aircraft through the US’ Foreign Military Sales program, with the State Department approving the sale. Previous reports indicate that the sale could be intended to plug a gap in Airbus A400M delivery schedules to the French Air Force, with French officials meeting with Lockheed Martin in June. The French defense budget for FY16 includes the provision of $1.7 billion for four C-130s, with the FMS request running to $650 million, including communications and self-protection systems and support services.

Meanwhile, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $968.7 million contract action modification for the production of 17 C-130J variants, including six C-130J-30, one HC-130J, nine MC-130J and one KC-130J aircraft. The Air Force and Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in October to fund a five-year deal for C-130Js, covering 83 aircraft for the Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

October 19/15: Lockheed Martin and the Air Force have reportedly reached an agreement on the acquisition of C-130J Hercules transport aircraft. The five-year contract will see 83 C-130Js delivered to the Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps and is anticipated to be finalized by the end of this year. Lockheed Martin sunk nearly $1 billion into the development of the aircraft, with the type seeing significant export success; sixteen countries have purchased the C-130J, including Canada, India, Israel and Norway.

October 5/15: An Air Force C-130J transport aircraft came down in Jalalabad, Afghanistan early on Friday morning, killing the aircraft’s six crew members and five civilian contractors on board. The Taliban claim that they shot down the aircraft as it took off, with this assertion denied by the Air Force. The crash is the sixth loss of a C-130J to date and the second time the USAF has lost one of the aircraft; however this is the first time US service personnel have been killed in a C-130J crash.

October 1/15: Denmark is reportedly looking to buy a fifth C-130J transporter, rejecting the A400M in the process. Plans to buy the Airbus design were reportedly dropped on financial grounds, with operating costs deemed too high by the Danish defense ministry.

FY 2015

Requests: Brunei.

September 18/15: Air Force Special Operations Command is reported to be looking to acquire an expendable unmanned system capable of acting as remote sensors deployable from C-130 gunships. A Coyote UAV is currently being used as a concept-demonstrator, with a longer-term solution also reported to be underway. AFSOC also wants to see lasers incorporated into the gunship of the future, retaining some aging C-130s to use as test beds. The Air Force wants industry to come up with a solution for an electric-powered laser weapon to equip the AC-130J by the end of the decade, the first aircraft of which was delivered at the end of July.

July 29/15: The Air Force has reportedly retained some ageing C-130U Hercules aircraft for use as airborne laser testbed aircraft. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to use the aircraft to test both offensive laser weapons and defensive lasers designed to act as less-than-lethal options. DARPA has been field testing the use of lasers against hostile projectiles, with the Air Force expecting to field airborne lasers on larger cargo aircraft models from 2021. However, the further development of these capabilities could be hamstrung by sequestration and a lack of political will.

March 24/15: The Air Force is adding one HC-130J to its original 2012 contract, at a cost of $72.7 million.

Oct 7/14: The US DSCA announces Brunei’s export request for 1 C-130J aircraft, 6 AE2100D3 turboprop engines (4 installed and 2 spares), Government Furnished Equipment, communication equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

The C-130J would become Brunei’s largest aircraft, far bigger than its 3 ordered CN-235MPA maritime patrol planes. why does such a tiny country need it? Not to haul the Sultan’s famous fleet of over 300 top-end cars, but:

“This proposed sale of a C-130J to Brunei will provide a critical capability to assist in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions. The aircraft will enable Brunei to provide aid and assistance in greater capacities to regional allies and partners in need. The aircraft will also provide the ability to execute maritime patrol missions and contribute to search and rescue missions in the region.”

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin-Aerospace in Marietta, GA, and the estimated cost is up to $343 million. That’s over 5x the standard flyaway price for a C-130J, a huge differential given that the notice that no additional contractors will be needed in Brunei. Perhaps they plan to perform long-term support elsewhere; it’s hard to think of another explanation if the notice’s facts are correct. Sources: US DSCA #14-37, “Brunei – C-130J Aircraft”.

DSCA request: Brunei (1 C-130J)

FY 2014

Orders: USA (7 SOCOM etc.), Saudi Arabia (2 KC-130J), India (6 C-130J-30), Israel (2 C-130J-30), Civil (10 LM-100J); Long-term engines supply contract; Indian crash; ROKAF deliveries done; AC-130J flies; DOT&E testing report.

C-130J at work
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Sept 29/14: Engines. GE Aviation Systems (actually Dowty Propellers) in Sterling, VA receives a sole-source $20.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 42 C-130J propellers (P/N 69703900) and spare parts. All funds are committed immediately using FY 2012-2014 USAF aircraft budgets, and funds from Foreign Military Sales – but the announcement doesn’t identify the foreign customers.

Work will be performed at Gloucester, UK and is expected to be complete by May 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (SPE4A1-14-G-0009-RJ03).

Sept 29/14: Software. A $6.6 million contract modification to integrate system and Mission Computer (MC) software changes into SOCOM’s HC/MC-130J Increment 2 aircraft. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 USAF RDT&E budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by March 31/17. Fiscal 2013 research, development, test and evaluation and procurement funds in the amount of $6,568,120 are being obligated at the time of award (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0277).

Sept 26/14: +7. A $413.2 million finalization for 1 HC-130J and 6 MV-130J aircraft, subsuming previous advance procurement funding into full production efforts. That works out to $59 million per aircraft, plus the cost of government-furnished equipment for these special forces planes. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 & 2013 USAF aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 30/15 (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0239).

USA: HC-130J & 6 MC-130Js

Sept 26/14: Sensors. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives an $18.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 12 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (AN/AAS-54) and spare parts for the Air Force C-130 program. Short version: it’s for Special Forces HC/MC-130s. Long version: the AAS-54 combines long-range day and night cameras for high-altitude target acquisition, and adds tracking, range-finding, and laser designation for all tri-service and NATO laser-guided munitions. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 & 2013 USAF aircraft budgets; $7.7 million will expire on Sept 30/14.

Work will be performed in McKinney, TX, and is expected to be complete by September 2016. The US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana manages the contract (N00164-12-G-JQ66).

Aug 6/14: FY15 long-lead. A $116.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy long lead parts for 14 FY 2015 C-130Js. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF advance procurement budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/15. The USAF Nuclear Weapons Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8625-14-C-6450, PO 0001).

July 23/14: Counter-fighter. Defensive tactics against enemy fighters isn’t the first thing you normally associate with a C-130, but a pair of 317th Airlift Group C-130Js had to do just that en route to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, TX. The exercise demonstrated C-130J capabilities that will be used during the multinational fighter meet at Red Flag-Alaska.

Here’s how it worked: The loadmasters sat high in the flight decks of their aircraft, looking through a bubbled window in the ceiling. They communicated to the pilots, who reacted and maneuvered to delay the fighter pilot’s ability to locate and lock on the C-130Js. 39th AS assistant director of operations for tactics Maj. Aaron Webb described the tactics as “pretty effective,” adding that a casual observer “doesn’t expect a 130,000-pound cargo plane to be able to maneuver as nimbly as the J-model does.” Sources: USAF, “Dyess C-130Js successfully evade F-16”.

July 18/14: India. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, GA receives a maximum $564.7 million contract modification to to fund 6 more India foreign military sales C-130J-30s, field service representatives and 3 years of post-delivery support after the first aircraft delivery. $50.9 million of this contract is committed immediately, and this brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2.067 billion; but the contract itself applies to orders beyond India’s.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA and is expected to be complete by April 30/20. Once all 6 planes are delivered, India’s fleet will rise to 11, given the March 2014 crash of KC3803. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract as India’s agent (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0273).

India: 6 C-130J-30

July 16/14: LM-100J sale. ASL Aviation Group in Dublin, Ireland signs a Letter of Intent with Lockheed Martin to order up to 10 LM-100J commercial freighters. Their Safair subsidiary in Johannesburg, South Africa currently operates 6 L-100-30 (C-130E/H) aircraft, but the LM-100J will be an entirely new type for their Air Contractors subsidiary in Dublin. Lockheed Martin adds:

“Engineering and detailed design of the LM-100J is currently underway. Assembly of the first aircraft will begin in 2015 and first flight of the LM-100J is expected by early 2017. Because much of the flight test done to civil certify the C-130J in the late 1990s will be directly applicable to the LM-100J, testing and certification of the newest Hercules variant is expected to take about twelve months.”

Which means deliveries can be expected in 2018, unless problems arise in testing. The firm sold 115 L-100s from 1964 through 1992, positioned to address the oversize cargo market and unimproved airfields. They’ve also been used for airdrops and humanitarian aid, VIP transport, aerial spraying, aerial firefighting, etc. Unfortunately, Lockheed acknowledges that legacy L-100s have higher direct operating costs relative to Russian An-12s, or even relative to 737 freighters when the 737’s special ground-handling cargo equipment is available. The LM-100J is intended to address that, while adding CNS/ATM compliance that will allow them to fly in civil airspace after 2015.

The firm predicts double-digit growth in the Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern air freight industries over the next decade, as a subset of overall 4% per year growth in the global market. Sources: Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine, “LM-100J: Airlifter For Hire” | Lockheed Martin, “ASL Aviation Group Signs Letter of Intent To Procure Lockheed Martin LM-100J Freighters”.

Civil: 10 LM-100Js

May 30/14: Korea. The ROKAF’s final 2 C-130J-30s fly out from Marietta, GA, to join their fellows in South Korea (q.v. Dec 2/10, March 27/14). Lockheed Martin is still working under an initial 2-year support and training program for the 4 planes, and is also involved with the ROKAF’s C-130H fleet. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “ROKAF Receives Additional C-130J Super Hercules Aircraft”.

Korea deliveries done

April 25/14: Extended Life. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives an initial $27.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for extended service life center wing boxes [DID: the section of the fuselage that connects to the wings] on 5 C-130J aircraft. Aging C-130E/H planes have received replacements; USAF C-130Js only began entering service in February 1999, but it’s the mileage that matters. Lockheed Martin would say only that replacement decisions are “based upon the service life of the part”, which can be shorter if a plane is subjected to heavy operational use. Meanwhile, the ESL wing boxes are equipping production line aircraft as well.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budgets. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/16. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLKCA at Robins AFB, GA (FA8504-14-C-0003).

March 28/14: Crash. An Indian Air Force C-130J-30 (tail #KC 3803) hits a hillock during low-level flight training, and crashes in a riverbed 116 km west of Gwailor. Everyone dies, including the 2nd-in-command of the 77 ‘Veiled Vipers’ squadron, Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, 2 pilots, and a trainee.

The C-130J was reportedly part of a 2-plane formation that had taken off from Agra. Sources: The Indian Express, “5 officers killed as IAF’s new showpiece Super Hercules crashes near Gwalior”.


March 27/14: Korea. The ROKAF takes delivery of 2 of its 4 ordered C-130J-30s (q.v. Dec 2/10), in a Marietta, GA ceremony. This makes them the plane’s 14th customer. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Republic Of Korea Air Force Accepts First C-130J Super Hercules”.

March 6/14: Sensors. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $10.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 10 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems, to be installed on AFSOC HC/MC-130Js.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY12 aircraft procurement budgets. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX and is expected to be complete by April 2015. There’s 1 set source for these, so this contract was not competitively procured per FAR 6.302-1. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-12-G-JQ66-0045).

March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019. The C-130J program is still waiting for the full FY 2014 contract (q.v. Dec 6/13, Feb 12/14), but that budget introduced a multi-year contract (q.v. April 10/13), which makes cuts in FY 2015-2018 very difficult.

The USAF’s FY 2015 budget request involves 13 C-130Js (7 regular USAF, 2 MC-130J, 4 HC-130J), while the USMC plans to buy 1 KC-130J. The overall effect will drop US annual production from 17 in FY 2014 (6 C-130J, 1 KC-130J, 5 AC-130J gunships, 1 HC-130J, 4 MC-130J) to 14 in FY 2015, but steady exports should cushion that.

The USAF’s initial materials don’t delve beyond FY 2015, but the USMC plans to order another 5 KC-130Js from FY 2016 – 2019. They’ll finish the FY 2014-2018 deal 1 KC-130J short of their maximum, though, with only 6 planes bought, and make up the 7th in FY 2019. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

Feb 28/14: Support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $54.3 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for depot level repair of 50 KC-130 aircraft engines, propellers and other propulsion system components for the US Marine Corps (47 planes/ $50.2M / 92%) and the government of Kuwait (3 planes/ $4.1M/ 8%).

$24.5 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (92%), Al Mubarak, Kuwait (2.1%); various locations in Japan (2%); Cherry Point. NC (1.3%); Miramar, CA (1.3%); and Fort Worth, TX (1.3%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-D-0007). See also Rolls Royce, “Rolls-Royce supports US Marine Corps KC-130Js through $50 million contract”.

Feb 25/14: Support. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a sole-source $12.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide spare parts that are unique to US SOCOM’s HC/MC-130Js, and can’t be drawn from general C-130J fleet spares.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Feb 16/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WISK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0209).

Feb 12/14: Engines. Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce complete a long-term agreement worth up to $1 billion, to deliver approximately 600 AE2100 turboprop engines for American and international contracts from 2014 through 2018. That works out to about 150 aircraft, but it’s probably closer to 125 with spares added in. Rolls Royce benefits from more predictable demand, while Lockheed Martin presumably benefits from lower prices.

Rolls Royce adds that “the agreement secures the Rolls-Royce AE 2100 as the engine of choice for all variants of the C-130J to 2025.” That was never really in doubt. The most likely break-point for an engine upgrade would be the design of a new C-130NG variant, in order to address competition from jet-powered 20-ton class transports after 2020. Sources: Rolls Royce, “Rolls-Royce and Lockheed Martin agree US$1BN deal to power future C-130J aircraft”.

Multi-year engine contract

Jan 31/14: AC-130J. The USAF flies a fully-converted AC-130J gunship for the 1st time, at Eglin AFB, FL. They also appear to have scales the program back a bit:

“A total of 32 MC-130J aircraft will be modified for AFSOC as part of a $2.4 billion AC-130J program to grow the future fleet, according to Capt. Greg Sullivan, the USSOCOM AC-130J on-site program manager at Det. 1.”

The Pentagon’s recently-released DOT&E report for FY 20

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