Having been dogged by cost overruns, Boeing's avionics modernization program (AMP) for the C-130 Hercules has passed its Defense Acquisition Board Milestone C, allowing low-rate initial production (LRIP) to begin. The AMP provides an integrated avionics system to prolong the useful career of the U.S. Air Force's legacy Hercules fleet, and includes full night-vision-goggle compatibility, glass cockpits and digital systems.
LRIP contracts cover 20 aircraft. In its effort to reduce the costs of the program, the U.S. government is spreading the work around, including opening up the work to third parties. The USAF is scheduled to start work on the first two LRIP machines at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia, which is expected to induct the first machine in August and the second in October. Warner Robins will also install the kits in eight more of the LRIP aircraft. Of the remaining 10, Boeing will convert five; the remainder are offered out to third-party contract. The current kit cost is around $14 million per aircraft, but Boeing is aiming to halve that figure by the 69th conversion.
Boeing has already produced three AMP aircraft for test. These will undergo periodic depot maintenance at Warner Robins in Georgia and modification by Boeing to full production standard at San Antonio, Texas, before being assigned to the C-130 schoolhouse at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. Current plans envision modernizing 198 C-130Hs and C-130H2s to AMP standard in phase one, while at least 100 further machines are planned for a second phase. Whether the latter proceeds or not, and to what extent, has not been decided, and may depend on how many new-build C-130Js are procured in the future.