The first LM-100J commercial freighter version of the C-130J Hercules is advancing through production, Lockheed Martin said on August 18. The manufacturer expects to finish assembling the aircraft “over the next few months” and to conduct a first flight in the first half of 2017.
Lockheed Martin said it has completed production of the aircraft’s wings and started cabtop construction of the first LM-100J at its Super Hercules final assembly line in Marietta, Ga. It has received delivery of the empennage, manufactured by its Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures joint venture in India; and of the cargo deck, manufactured by its facility in Meridian, Miss.
In January 2014, Lockheed Martin notified the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that it would seek a type design update for the L-382J civil variant of the Super Hercules to be marketed as the LM-100J. As Lockheed, the company produced more than 100 L-100 four-engine turboprops between 1964 and 1992, when production ended.
As of the latest announcement, Lockheed Martin reported receiving orders and commitments for 25 LM-100Js, but said that its launch customer wishes to remain unnamed. The manufacturer has said previously that it sees a market for 75 new freighters.
At the Farnborough airshow in July 2014, Lockheed Martin announced a letter of intent from ASL Aviation Group of Ireland to acquire up to 10 freighters. The group includes Air Contractors of Ireland, Europe Airpost of France and Safair of South Africa, one of the largest operators of the earlier L-100 (L-382) variant. Last month at Farnborough, Arlington, Va.-based Bravo Industries, a logistics and defense group that operates mainly in Latin America, said it will purchase 10 LM-100Js for air cargo flights in Brazil.
“As this first LM-100J Super Hercules freighter progresses in production, so does a new era in commercial aircraft operations,” said George Shultz, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager for air mobility and maritime missions. “There is a significant global requirement for commercial freight operations to support operations in more austere areas.”