Lockheed Martin Touts Lower-cost, Convertible C-130Js

 - April 13, 2012, 2:30 PM
Lockheed Martin is deleting some features from the C-130J to reduce cost, but they could be restored later in the ‘X-pandable’ version. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has provided more details on the lower-cost C-130XJ that it revealed earlier this year, along with the proposed SC-130J Sea Herc for maritime missions. The company has delivered 252 of the 320 C-130Js on order by 15 countries, and is reducing the production rate to 30 per year from last year’s peak of 36.

Jim Grant, Lockheed Martin vice president for new business air mobility, said that many older C-130s are flying at a high operational tempo. While their life could be extended, through replacing the center wing boxes, “old aircraft cost more to operate, and they don’t have the [engine] power, payload and range of the C-130J.” Some operators want high availability and reliability, but not the full capabilities of the J, he added.

The C-130XJ would retain the J’s engine and avionics but be delivered without some features that are currently standard. These include defensive systems, armor, enhanced communications, some tactical avionics and an automatic cargo handling system with winch. Wiring and structural provisions for these systems would be retained, so that the new version’s capabilities could subsequently be “X-panded,” should the customer require. Grant declined to name a price for the C-130XJ, saying only that the airplane will be “10 to 15 percent cheaper” than a standard C-130J.

The SC-130J version would be a convertible aircraft, capable of airlift and combat delivery missions when not carrying a palletized mission system that draws on Lockheed Martin’s P-3 experience. The company has conceived three levels of maritime patrol capability, ranging from surveillance through surface-vessel attack to full anti-submarine warfare. The anti-submarine variant would carry torpedoes in a new bay faired on to the undercarriage sponsons.

Lockheed Martin has already delivered HC-130Js equipped for maritime surveillance to the U.S. Coast Guard, and some U.S. Marine Corps KC-130Js have already been modified with wing hardpoints for surface attack in the Harvest Hawk program. Grant said that the SC-130J will offer superior endurance and efficiency at low altitude, compared with two-engined aircraft such as the ATR 72, Fokker 50 or Boeing P-8A.

Grant revealed that Lockheed Martin has been working on C-130J drag-reduction techniques that could reduce fuel burn by up to 25 gallons per hour during long-range cruise. Micro-vanes on the aft fuselage have already been flight-tested; a lift-distribution control system that deflects the ailerons upwards is ready to be flown; and winglets have been tested in a wind tunnel.