LM contests C130J cost


The fly-away price of a C130J medium transport is in the low US$80 million range, Lockheed Martin officials say.

A senior Lockheed Martin delegation visited South Africa this week and again briefed the Air Force on the latest iteration of the long-flying Hercules. Speaking to defenceWeb yesterday, the officials were adamant new aircraft were not as expensive as the SAAF seems to believe.

Defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman in 2009 said the C130J had a fly-away cost of between US$ 82 and 86 million. C130 life extension programme project officer Brigadier General (Retired) Piet van Zyl last Friday told a media briefing the replacement cost of the current C130BZ fleet would be some US$142 million (R1.067 billion) per aircraft, based on the average sales price of the C130J over the last eight years. To replace the seven SAAF C-130BZ aircraft will cost R7.470 billion, he said.



Total cost (US$)

Average unit cost (US$)



1 400 000 000

82 352 941



1 059 000 000

176 500 000



1 500 000 000

250 000 000



1 900 000 000

211 111 111



245 000 000

81 666 667



520 000 000

130 000 000



393 600 000

98 400 000



1 300 000 000

108 333 333

Average cost

142 295 507

Brig Gen Van Zyl’s figures

Van Zyl briefed that rather that buying new aircraft now – or anytime soon – a small investment could extend the lifetime of the current venerable fleet until about 2030. The SAAF C-130 fleet consists of seven platforms (401 – 407), purchased in 1962-3, before a US arms embargo was imposed on South Africa’s apartheid government. Five more were received in 1997/8 from the US (two ex-United States Air Force C-130B’s – 408 and 409 – and three ex-US Navy C-130F’s – 410 to 412 as part of their Excess Defence Articles programme. The two ex-US C-130B ‘s and a C-130F (411) were subsequently put in service, but the C-130F was retired soon thereafter.

The SAAF brigadier added a detailed engineering study conducted recently to determine the remaining service life of the fleet, found all seven SAAF aircraft can safely fly to 2020 provided that the most critical obsolescence issues can be resolved – this including the aircraft’s pressurisation system, air conditioning and GTC. To fly to 2030, the aircrafts’ engines will need serious attention by 2022.

The SAAF C-130BZ fleet has to date only used – on average – 65% of their assigned wing life.

The LM team, headed by Vice President Business Development Initiatives for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Dennys Plessas said the fact that the C130BZ’s have over 50 years flying on the clock proves the long-livity of the platform. But the “J” is so much more capable, affordable and flexible, they averred. Operating costs are lower, crews are smaller and reach is longer. In terms of a company operational analysis, recapitalising now will see the SAAF acquire a platform that meets 90% of its airlift requirement – “light, medium and nearly all heavy airlift – and all of its tanking, maritime as well as border patrol missions. The fleet would also be well-suite for over-ocean search-and-rescue as far south as Antarctica and – with tanks fitted – firefighting. A LM campaign brochure notes 10 of the aircraft can perform all these missions for the SAAF, replacing the C130BZ, the Boeing B707 tanker and the Douglas C47TP Dakota.

The SAAF retired the last of its fleet of Boeing B707-320C due to old age and high costs in July 2007. At the time the aircraft provided aerial refuelling, long-range transport and electronic warfare services to the SA National Defence Force. The SAAF acquired its C47s from 1943 and the type is slated to retire in 2015, when it should be replaced in terms of Project Saucepan.

Plessas said LM was open to a direct deal, a government-to-government buy or a lease.