Announced last week when your scribe clearly wasn’t looking, the award to Lockheed Martin of a US$15 billion indefinite-quantity contract for development, integration, retrofit and production activities across all C-130J Hercules aircraft variants is as good an indication as any that this superb medium lift transport aircraft will still be flying when the type marks the 100th anniversary of its first flight in 2054.
An air force that doesn’t have C-130 transport aircraft in its fleet is not worthy of being called an air force at all in my view. Well proven capability and the workhorse of so many air forces around the world that can land and take off from almost anywhere, it is amazing to think that in its original form what became known as the Hercules first flew an incredible 66 years ago in 1954.
Today in its C-130J ‘Super’ form the aircraft is as modern as the hour. In total I would estimate that over 2,600 C-130 Hercules variants have now been built and what’s more– are still being built by Lockheed Martin today making this by far the longest running military aircraft production line in history!
Announcing the award, the US Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed that the funding world cover “development, integration, retrofit and production activities for all C-130J variants” and that the “the contract provides flexibility to accommodate the broad enterprise of activities associated with the C-130J program”. Furthermore, the DoD stated that that the contract also “involves Foreign Military Sales and is the result of a sole-source acquisition” – though on this occasion it did not specify which countries were involved.
Yesterday Bethesda, Maryland based Lockheed Martin announced another set of excellent results, this time in the form of Q2 2020 performance recording net sales of $16.2 billion – this compared to $14.4 billion in Q2 2019. Net earnings for the three-month period were $1.6 billion, or $5.79 per share, compared to $1.4 billion, or $5.00 per share in the corresponding period last year and said that cash from operations was $2.2 billion compared to $1.7 billion in Q2 2019. In the statement accompanying the results, new president and CEO James Taiclet who succeeded Marillyn Hewson in June said that “a strong portfolio, coupled with supportive governmental actions have positioned us to deliver vital national security solutions for our country and international partners, and long-term value for our shareholders.”
The announcement of the new long-term C-130J contract from the DoD comes approximately four years after a similar IDIQ agreement for US$10 billion was signed covering production of an estimated 100 C-130Js for the United States and FMS (Foreign Military Sales) customers.
The C130J family of aircraft continues to receive order from across the world including air forces in Europe – examples here being France which ordered four Lockheed Martin Super Hercules aircraft in 2016 – two C-130J-30 combat delivery airlifters and two KC-130J aerial refuelers (The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air took delivery of the second of the two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers orders at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, Georgia in February this year) and from Germany which, in 2018, ordered six C-130J Super Hercules – these to become part of a joint Franco-German squadron based at Evreux airbase in France. The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) has now taken ok delivery of the second of two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, Georgia.
The announcement also comes just over a month since the New Zealand government also confirmed purchase of five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft at a total cost of NZ$1 billion.
Cirium fleets data indicates that there are approximately 441 C-130J family aircraft estimated to be in service globally with 37 new aircraft on order and nine in storage. The US Air Force is by far the largest operator of C-130 aircraft variants with a fleet of 250. This is followed by the US Marine Corps which has an estimated 61. Other international customers using the aircraft include Italy, Canada, the UK Royal Air Force which had been the launch customer for the C-130J variant plus also Australia and India.
Having been the primary heavy maintenance and support operation for C-130 Hercules aircraft outside of the US and for the past 55 years worked alongside Lockheed Martin supporting large numbers C-130 aircraft in service with international air forces, the DoD announcement is also excellent news for Cambridge based Marshalls Aerospace. In congratulating Lockheed Martin on the DoD contract announcement, Marshalls tweeted today “that the C-130 had proved its worth in so many critical situations in the decades since the aircraft was introduced and this contract reinforces the continued relevance of this iconic aircraft”.
There really is no better statement that I can make than that for the workhorse of military aircraft. It may not be the largest or fastest but C-130 does what it says on the tin – give air forces and other users what they want and when they want it.
Lockheed Martin deserves much praise for how in the C-130J it has kept the aircraft relevant, fit for purpose of air forces need and want and bang-up to date in respect of technology required. So too does Marshalls Aerospace deserve significant praise too in respect of how this very important UK company has and continues to support so many C-130 aircraft in air forces around the globe to this day.
Not only does Marshall Aerospace have long term MRO support contracts with large number of international air forces around the globe it also has manufacturing contracts with Lockheed Martin itself. For instance, in February the company announced that it had won a contract to manufacture and supply cockpit trim panels for the C-130J platform. But it is the MRO and particularly the heavy maintenance support that Marshall’s Aerospace is best known and by international air forces that include the French Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, the Swedish Air Force, Kuwait Air Force, Bangladesh Air Force, Royal Bahraini Air Force, Austrian Air Force, Cameroon Air Force and many more besides.
In the UK the innovative Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS) programme, a joint partnership between the UK Ministry of Defence, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, Rolls-Royce and Lockheed Martin, provides long-term support for the Royal Air Force C-130J fleet.
CHW (London – 22nd July 2020)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785