Marshall Aerospace (Hall 2b E158) is bidding to fill the UK’s maritime surveillance gap by modifying some of the Royal Air Force’s Lockheed Martin C-130Js.
Last year, a cost-cutting defense review scrapped a fleet of nine soon-to-enter-service BAE Systems Nimrod MRA.4 aircraft. Observers have since questioned official assurances that AgustaWestland Merlin helicopters and unmodified C-130Js could adequately substitute in long-range antisubmarine, anti-ship and search-and-rescue roles for the UK.
The “quick change” conversion would use some of the equipment that was developed and delivered for the Nimrod MRA.4. The Thales Searchwater radar would be installed on the C-130J’s lower rear ramp door, and be lowered in flight from a stowed position. Sonobuoys would be deployed through chutes on the same doors, taken from a storage rack nearby. An electro-optic turret would be added beneath the nose, presumably for the MRA.4’s Northrop Grumman Night Hunter II EO/IR system. ESM antennas would be fitted to the wingtips, forward and rear fuselage. Five tactical workstations would be installed in the fuselage, compared with seven in the MRA.4.
Based at Cambridge Airport in the UK, Marshall has more than 40 years of experience in C-130 overhauls and modifications, and said that it is negotiating with Lockheed Martin to extend its “sister design authority” for earlier C-130 models to the C-130J.
Lockheed Martin’s own missions systems and sensors (MS2) division has designed palletized maritime surveillance solutions for the C-130 and other tactical airlifters. But Marshall told AIN that it was prepared to adapt the UK’s C-130Js using its own resources.