One of three US Air Force airlifters that are gracing the Waterkloof ramp this week is a Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 from the 86th Airlift Wing, normally based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Lockheed Martin (Hangar 3, Stand CW8) is promoting the C-130J as the ideal candidate for the South African Air Force's (SAAF's) long-standing Hercules replacement requirement as the existing C-130Bs become increasingly difficult to maintain.
As well as offering significant increases in capability, reliability and efficiency compared with the 'legacy' Hercules, the C-130J is being highlighted for its mission versatility. Quite apart from its regular cargo and passenger transport duties, the aircraft can perform many secondary roles, a total of 17 specific missions having been identified for the type. Those that have particular application to South Africa are inflight-refuelling tanker with wing pods to support the country's Gripen fighters, oil spill spraying and fire-fighting. The latter two missions can be undertaken using roll-on/roll-off equipment.
Maritime patrol is another mission that can be performed by the Super Hercules, offering long endurance and four-engined safety for overwater missions. The aircraft's ability to accommodate palletised loads and be fitted with extra communications permits its use as an airborne command and control post during emergency response efforts or ground actions by troops.
Currently, the C-130J fleet is approaching two million flight hours, and the type has been sold to 17 customers, the latest of which is France. The French air force intends to operate its four aircraft from 2021 in a pooled squadron at Evreux with the six C/KC-130Js Germany has on order. Bahrain is shortly to become the 18th user when it receives two C-130Js it has bought from the UK RAF.
Later this month, the first group of students begins training at the new Hercules Training Center established at Marietta, Georgia, home to the Hercules factory. The centre provides type certification training for the C-130J, tailored to meet the needs of individual students. The training centre allows overseas customers to train crews without having the spend on their own training systems.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin reports encouraging discussions with a number of potential customers in the region for the LM-100J civilian version. At least one mining company has evaluated the aircraft's figures and concluded that potential competitors cannot match the LM-100J's ability to fly economically viable loads into the high-altitude strips that support the company's mining activities.
In addition to marketing the C-130J, Lockheed Martin is promoting the M28 Skytruck as a light transport for service in extreme terrains. The M28 became an LM product when it acquired Sikorsky, which had earlier bought the Polish PZL-Mielec company. The M28 has been used extensively by US Special Forces.