Off the back of its 2001 contract to modernize the U.S. Air Force’s C-130, Boeing is offering its avionics modernization program (AMP) as a scalable architecture kit to extend the service life of the ubiquitous military transport. According to the company, more than 700 aging C-130s that could benefit from the upgrade are still in service. However, other industry sources say the actual worldwide market for the package would likely be little more than one third of that number, based
on financial costs, available resources and airframe viability.
The initial AMP program for the USAF fleet was intended as a “full boat” comprehensive package, but the available upgrade system was designed to be scalable so customers could have the flexibility to perform the modifications on an incremental basis rather than all at once. There are multiple benefits to the AMP, according to Boeing. These include a digital, all-glass cockpit, night-vision imaging system compliance, and communication navigation surveillance system/air traffic management, which will allow the aircraft to meet civil navigation safety mandates.
Given the numerous models and variants of the versatile “Herc,” the AMP also offers operators the opportunity to standardize the cockpit configurations, thus increasing crew flexibility and reducing the amount of specialized training required. While the program is aimed primarily at the C-130E and H models–out of the 1,693 produced by Lockheed, more than 1,200 are believed to still be flying–more antiquated models such as As and Bs would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
According to the current low rate initial production plans, 26 AMP kits will be produced–11 to be installed by Boeing, 11 by the USAF; the remaining four sets will be offered for bidding in two pairs to other contractors to foster competition for the installation contracts. The first USAF aircraft to be upgraded, an H model, completed its 100th flight last month, the halfway milestone in the aircraft’s flight-test program.
Another AMP C-130 is also undergoing testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, while a third is currently in the process of being upgraded and modified at Boeing’s support systems facility in San Antonio, Texas. In August 2006, Sweden became the first international customer for the program, with a $19.8 million contract for the engineering manufacturing development for one Swedish Air Force C-130H. The aircraft is scheduled to arrive at Boeing’s San Antonio facility in September. A production contract to modify six additional Swedish C-130s is currently in the planning stages.