IAF sets its eyes on advanced new Hercules

With a range of 2,500 kilometers without refueling, the Hercules are known for many long-range missions.

C-130 J 298.888 (photo credit: Lockheed Martin)
C-130 J 298.888
(photo credit: Lockheed Martin)
In an effort to upgrade its aging fleet of transport aircraft, the IAF submitted an official Request for Information (RFI) to Lockheed Martin this week to receive details on the cost and performance of the brand-new C-130 J model, the US-based defense corporation announced Wednesday. Two senior Lockheed Martin executives were in Israel this week for talks with the air force about procurement plans for the coming years. The two - Rob Weiss, vice president of Business Development, and Tom Burbage, executive vice president and general manager - met with IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy and OC IDF Planning Division Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan. The two products Israel is interested in are the C-130 J model - to replace the IAF's 45-year-old fleet of Hercules - as well as the new fifth-generation stealth Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), also known as the F-35. The newest version of the Hercules, the "J" model, is externally similar to the classic Hercules but inside is a different aircraft. It includes new Rolls-Royce Allison AE21000 turboprops with six-bladed composite propellers and digital avionics including heads-up displays for the pilots. As the longest-range aircraft in the IAF fleet with a range of 2,500 kilometers without refueling, the Hercules are known for many long-range missions, including the delivery of commandos to rescue hostages held by Palestinian terrorists in Entebbe in 1976. They also flew IDF humanitarian missions from Macedonia to Rwanda. The RFI submitted by the Defense Ministry focuses on six J-model aircraft at an estimated price of $65 million apiece. Weiss said he expected the IAF would make a final decision in the coming months. The answers to the RFI will be transmitted to the Israeli Defense Ministry by April 10. Weiss said he spoke with Shkedy about the possible delivery date of 2010, which could only be met if the IAF placed the order by mid-2008. The IAF was also considering a proposal by Boeing to upgrade the aircraft under the company's C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP). In September, Boeing announced the first flight of a C-130 aircraft that had its cockpit gutted and revamped to improve navigation and communication. Regarding the JSF, Burbage said Israel had expressed interest in 100 aircraft with delivery to begin in 2014. To meet that date, Israel will need to place the order by 2009. Eight countries - including Britain, Turkey and Australia - are members of the JSF project. Israel enjoys the status of a Security Cooperation Participant after paying $20 million in 2003 to obtain access to information accumulated during the development of the jet, which will be priced at somewhere between $40-50 million. Burbage said Israel would be allowed to make modifications to some of the aircraft's systems to meet its operational needs. The changes, he said, would focus on command-and-control and weapons systems.