Lockheed Martin is offering to reduce the price of the C-130J Hercules by stripping out some of the more expensive systems. The U.S.-built airlifter is facing new competition later this decade, when Embraer’s yet-to-fly KC-390 becomes available.
C-130J Super Hercules
The U.S. Air Force is terminating the C-130 avionics modernization program (AMP) and culling 286 aircraft from its fleet over the next five years as it restructures to meet budget constraints. At the same time, the service plans a service-life-extension program (SLEP) for 350 F-16s to compensate for delayed deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Talks to amend the Airbus A400M development and production contract will drag on into the autumn as the moratorium on funding imposed by the European partner nations continues.
Last month the U.S. Navy completed Phase One testing of a U.S. Marine Corps HC-130J Hercules outfitted with the Harvest Hawk system, which gives the tanker/transports weapons capability. Following initial tests at Patuxent River, Maryland, the HC-130J departed for further tests at China Lake in California, in preparation for an initial deployment to Afghanistan in the summer.
A deal to rescue the troubled Airbus A400M airlifter has been put together. Defense ministers from the European partner nations will meet on Wednesday to approve a reduction in their orders, originally set at 180 aircraft. No more money will be made available to EADS-Airbus, beyond the €20 billion that was agreed to in 2003 to cover the development and production.
At a dramatic new year press conference held beneath the second A400M in the final assembly building in Seville, Spain, the chief executive officers of EADS and Airbus declared that they would stop funding the program at the end of this month.
Airbus Military is increasingly confident about the technical progress of the A400M airlifter, but has refused to comment on the difficult, ongoing negotiations with the European launch nations over cost and timescale.
As negotiations to secure a future for Europe’s troubled A400M airlifter continue, the UK government is taking the hardest line with Airbus Military, and moving quickly to secure alternative solutions. At the meeting of defense ministers in Seville, Spain, last month, the UK vetoed a Franco-German proposal to delay a final decision until December.
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.
Six years ago, the team from Airbus Military promoting the A400M came to the Paris Air Show full of confidence and good intentions. Germany had just confirmed its order for 60, finally launching the program after years of negotiations. Italy and Portugal dropped out, leaving a total requirement of 180 aircraft for six European countries (seven, if you count Luxembourg taking one aircraft).
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