Paris Air Show

LM ready to supplant A400M with C-130J

 - June 14, 2009, 9:05 AM

Lockheed Martin can deliver C-130J military transports to the nations affected by the A400M debacle within 36 months, on a sale or lease basis. Longer-term, LM continues to study an “Extra Large” version of the C-130 that could offer the same fuselage cross section as the European airlifter.

Jim Grant, vice president for C-130J business development, is looking forward to some interesting discussions in Paris this week with frustrated A400M customers. “We have already had dialogue with the European nations, at various levels,” he told AIN last week. France and the UK have already gone public with their interest in the idea.

By happy coincidence there are two C-130Js at the show. A brand-new airplane–the 165th production example–is available for customer demonstrations, and is being displayed daily by a Lockheed aircrew. There’s another one in the Pentagon’s static display. Eleven countries have now ordered 264 examples of the ‘J’, of which 173 have been delivered. The production rate is being increased from 12 last year to about 25 next year.

Grant believes that the C-130J and the A400M can fulfill complementary roles. “The Europeans could acquire some C-130Js to meet their urgent requirements for tactical airlift. When the A400Ms are eventually delivered, they could specialize in strategic airlift, and the C-130J could take on the special mission role,” he suggested. Grant also noted that LM was flexible regarding the nature and level of logistics support on offer, right up to “turnkey” solutions.

Airbus will be unhappy but not surprised to hear that LM has also been talking C-130J to Malaysia and South Africa, the two “export” customers for the A400M. Both are existing C-130 operators. In particular, the South Africans have an urgent need to replace their 50-year-old C-130Bs.

Airbus Military has always noted that the A400M is much more than a C-130J, in terms of payload, range and especially “box size.” But according to LM’s Grant, “Our customers know that the C-130J can carry 95 percent of the required loads.”

Nevertheless, LM has been studying a so-called C-130XL that could take the volumetric loads. The aim would be to offer maximum commonality with the C-130J, including the wing and engines, so there is a significant practical limit to this development. The C-130XL study was prompted by an emerging U.S. requirement for intra-theater airlift. But it is one more thing for the A400M marketing team to worry about while the European program is stalled.