Long history of C-130 support is bedrock for avionics upgrade

 - February 18, 2008, 11:02 PM

Singapore Technologies Aerospace is highlighting its C-130 avionics upgrade capabilities on Stand No. G01, where a cockpit display features modernization planned for Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) models. They include the AN/APN-241 low-power color weather and navigation radar for which Northrop Grumman won an integration contract last year.

ST Aerospace has long been a source of support for the RSAF Hercules fleet and having embarked on a seven-year upgrade program, it now wants to address the requirements of other air forces in the region.

A key feature of the company’s capabilities involves the provision of navigation, safety and communications improvements to meet Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ ATM) requirements, thus facilitating movement through civil airspace.

Boeing is also promoting its C-130 avionics upgrade program, originally developed to meet a U.S. Air Force requirement to modernize a substantial number of its aircraft but escalating costs and other major difficulties resulted in delays.

To save money, the C-130E was dropped from the program, but flight tests of Boeing’s C-130AMP were carried out following contract award in 2001, so the company geared up for low-rate initial production (LRIP) in the first quarter of this year.

However, the Air Force has decided to again compete for the series production contract, a development that could lead to further delays. Nevertheless, the C-130AMP is set to extend the life of some 200 or more USAF Hercules aircraft for another 30 years of service. Thoroughly tested and ready to make C-130s compliant with global air traffic management standards, Boeing’s AMP is a leading contender for a growing international market.

Already this year, Boeing has signed up to equip Swedish Hercules with the program. But visitors to the show will be aware that other exhibitors are also bidding for lucrative business, among them Thales, which has teamed with Sabena Technics to renovate and upgrade the avionics for the French air force fleet of 14 C-130H aircraft. The two companies will produce kits in readiness for series installation.

But Rockwell Collins has already penetrated the Asian C-130 upgrade market, recently winning an award for the second phase of an avionics upgrade for Royal Thai Air Force C-130s. The contract involves the final six of a 12-strong fleet and features the company’s Flight2 avionics system, which includes an Ethernet-based integrated processing center with flight management capabilities and large format multifunction liquid-crystal displays.

L-3 Communications’ Spar Aerospace facility in Canada can also point to success in C-130 upgrades, having replaced the analog control and display system on RNZAF aircraft with a flat-screen display system similar to that employed on the C-130J. The flight deck is fully night-vision-goggle compatible.

The upgrade will ensure that the New Zealand aircraft will meet future air traffic control requirements and extend the service life of the C-130Hs until at least 2017. But it would be a surprise if Lockheed Martin was not also active in this market, although its collaboration with Malaysia’s Airod has featured the conversion of a C-130E to an aerial tanker role, using Flight Refueling Ltd. equipment, while some standard-size C-130Hs have been converted to the extended fuselage
-30 configuration.