Lockheed offers high local content Super Hercules to SAAF


Lockheed Martin is offering its C-130XJ ‘Expandable’ Super Hercules with maximum local content to the South African Air Force (SAAF) to meet its transport and maritime patrol requirements and will bring out an aircraft to Africa Aerospace and Defence in September.

Lockheed Martin is making the Air Force aware of its C-130XJ, a base model J variant with J model performance but lower acquisition cost due to less equipment. Plessas said customers did not need all the equipment US Air Force J model Hercules have, hence the creation of the C-130XJ, which can be modified with equipment as and when necessary. As the C-130XJ is slightly lighter than the standard model, it can carry slightly more payload. The XJ is aimed at the export market and, if bought by South Africa, would probably have a significant amount of locally developed and installed equipment.

Dennys S Plessas, Vice President Business Development Initiatives at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said he thought South Africa would be most interested a C-130XJ with a maximum amount of local content. He said this would create an “African configuration” which could be promoted to other African countries. Plessas said that countries are free to put their own equipment on the C-130, such as India, which added an electro-optical turret and its own communications avionics.

Plessas, briefing journalists in Pretoria today, said that Lockheed has been talking to Armscor and the Air Force and making it aware of the C-130J’s capabilities. “The J or the XJ is the answer,” to South Africa’s requirements, Plessas said, as it can carry 95% of South Africa’s mission equipment.

He added that the C-130J could provide 90% of the SAAF’s airlift capability (including cargo transport, peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, medevac, search and rescue etc). It could also meet 100% of the SAAF’s maritime/border patrol requirements and 100% of its tanking needs, as the KC-130J has successfully refuelled Gripen fighters.

The SAAF’s eight C-130BZs are projected to keep flying until 2020, up from the earlier date of 2015, but the Air Force has yet to issue a request for information (RFI) or request for proposals (RFP) for replacements. Lockheed Martin pointed out that the SAAF’s Boeing 707 tankers had been retired in 2007 and that its C-47TP aircraft are 1940s vintage.

Until the cancellation of the A400M, the SAAF envisaged a transport trinity with the A400M as the heavy/strategic transport, a C130-type aircraft as a medium airlifter and a third type as a light utility aircraft. The Air Force is currently seeking maritime patrol and transport aircraft as part of Project Saucepan, with Airbus Military showcasing its C295 for this requirement – the company last month flew the aircraft to South Africa as part of an Africa demonstration tour.

Lockheed Martin emphasised the importance of maintenance and through life support and said that if South Africa was to acquire the C-130J, more than 50% of maintenance and support infrastructure is already in place as the SAAF flies the C-130BZ while Denel has the only certified C-130 maintenance centre in Africa.

Lockheed noted that the C-130J was suited to the South African National Defence Force’s long, hot and high missions. These encompass maritime patrol, peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and border patrol, amongst others. There is an increasingly large focus on peacekeeping operations (South Africa has 2 400 personnel deployed) and maritime patrol (Operation Copper is combating pirates off the east coast). Another possibility could be aerial refuelling, as the C-130J can refuel a Gripen in flight.

With regard to the rest of Africa, Plessas said that there was a lot of appetite but little funding for the C-130J on the continent, although North African countries had an appetite and some funding. Tunisia in 2010 bought two C-130Js and will receive its first aircraft next year, and its second in 2014. Meanwhile Nigeria is refurbishing some of its C-130s.

Plessas said the C-130J was a proven aircraft that caters well to growing demand for air mobility. He said that air forces around the world are struggling to acquire new air mobility capabilities in the face of budget cuts. “Air Forces today have to do more with less and need the flexibility and adaptability of a multipurpose aircraft.” Lockheed claims that due to its roll on/off mission payloads and flexibility the C-130J is right for air forces that cannot afford dedicated aircraft for each role, such as maritime patrol, transport, firefighting etc.

To date, 2 403 C-130s of all model shave been delivered to 73 countries around the world, including 248 C-130Js, of 320 J models on order. The C-130J fleet has exceeded 845 000 flying hours, with more than half of that made up by non-US operators.

Plessas admitted that the C-130J was more expensive than twin engined aircraft like the C-295 and C-27J but said that based on the aircraft’s tasks, it is the more cost effective solution. He also praised the C-130J’s maintenance and operating requirements, saying the aircraft only requires 1.07 maintenance man hours per flight hour and that aircraft deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq had recorded a 95.8% mission reliability rate, 89.3% operational readiness rate and had a 1.8 hour meantime to repair rate.