Boeing Avionics Upgrade for C-130 Faces Uncertain Future

 - October 26, 2009, 11:04 AM

The U.S. Air Force has recommended cancelling the Boeing avionics modernization program (AMP) that was supposed to upgrade more than 200 Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules airlifters. The program has already lost its only export customer: the Swedish Air Force. A spokesman for the Swedish Armed Forces told AIN that the AMP is too expensive and would entail long delays.

The AMP has endured a troubled history, including the contract award to Boeing that was tainted by the Darleen Druyun/Mike Sears affair, and then a major cost overrun in 2005. The program was restructured to remove 169 earlier C-130s planned for modifications, leaving only the USAF’s 221 C-130H2 and H3 models to be upgraded. Boeing has nearly completed the system design and development phase, at a cost of $1.4 billion.

Three aircraft have been modified and flight tested at Edwards AFB in California, where one was displayed at the open house this month. Two more are scheduled to be inducted for low-rate initial production (LRIP) at Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center, Ga., and Boeing was preparing to upgrade 11 of the 24 LRIP aircraft at its own facility at San Antonio, Texas.

At a briefing last May, Boeing C-130 AMP program manager Mark Angelo claimed that the company’s upgrade was “extremely competitive,” but a reported cost of $12.3 million (2007 $) suggests otherwise. Angelo admitted that the Pentagon was trying to inject competition into the AMP program by appointing a second source to convert two of the 24 LRIP aircraft. Now the whole program is in jeopardy, along with Boeing’s hopes of selling the AMP upgrade to non-U.S. C-130 operators, such as Australia, Canada, Egypt, Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia.