The Air Force had approximately 700 C-130Es and C-130Hs of different configurations that continued to various tasks, most notably, theater long- range, day-or-night airland or airdrop missions. The Air Force had begun buying the modernized C-130J with the intent of replacing the older E and H variants. Lockheed invested $1 billion to develop the new plane, but Pentagon budget priorities resulted in fewer US government orders than expected. As of mid-2001 the Air Force had ordered 37 of an originally planned buy of 168 planes. Lockheed subsequently secured sales of the C-130J to the Marines, the Coast Guard and numerous foreign countries.
One of the first foreign customers for the C-130J was the United Kingdom. The first C-130J-30 ordered by the Royal Air Force rolled off the production floor on October 18, 1995. Its first flight was made on April 5, 1996. To ensure service for the Hercules well into the current millennium, twenty-five next-generation C-130Js were ordered from Lockheed Martin in the early 1990s. The RAF acquired two versions of the C-130J, fifteen of the longer fuselage C-130J-30 aircraft, known by the RAF as the C. Mk. 4, and ten of the standard C-130J, known as the C. Mk. 5. The arrival of the first C-130Js meant the return of some early C-130Ks to the manufacturer for refurbishment and redelivery to new customers. The remaining examples retained in RAF service were to be used for tactical, special, and some strategic operations.
Beginning in FY96, the United States Air Force started procuring C-130Js as replacements for the older C-130Es and Hs. Priority for replacement was combat delivery aircraft. C-130J ensured total force structure numbers are maintained, while reducing costs of ownership. The program was slated to procure 12 C-130Js at a rate of two per year from FY96 to FY01. The program could be expanded in FY02 to procure 12 C-130Js a year to replace the active duty and ARC C-130Es which were nearing the end of their useable service life.
President George W. Bush's FY03 budget included funding for the acquisition of new C-130J and KC-130J aircraft over five years. The President's budget request included a proposal for a multi-year procurement of C-130J aircraft for the Air Force, with funding for the purchase of 60 C-130J aircraft over 5 years built by Lockheed in Marietta.
The U.S. Air Force's C-130J Hercules deployed for the first time in December 2004. The deployed force included operators and support Airmen from Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143rd Airlift Squadron, Maryland ANG's 135th AS, Air Force Reserve's Command's 815th AS at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and California ANG's 115th AS at Channel Islands ANG Station.
The Pentagon planned to save more than $5 billion by ending the C-130J program in FY07 and scrapping the purchase of 63 aircraft that was planned through 2011. The FY06 budget proposed to end production of the Air Force's C-130J at 53, rather than the 168 originally projected. At $66.5 million, then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that the aircraft had become increasingly expensive to build and to maintain, especially given the ability to modernize existing C-130s. The Air Force said that shutting down the C-130J line will cost between $500 million and a billion dollars.
Previous years' Congressional appropriations procured eight C-130Js for the 135th AG, Baltimore, MD, four extended C-130Js for the 143rd AW, Quonset Point, RI, and four extended C-130Js for the 146th AW, Channel Islands, CA. The 193rd SOW, Harrisburg IAP, PA, has received one EC-130J per year from FY97 to FY01 for a total of five aircraft, three of which have been modified into EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft and two into Super J/Senior Hunter aircraft. The FY03 budget appropriated funding for one additional (sixth) EC-130J. A subsequent appropriation of $23M was provided for Super J capability.
If future C-130Js and the associated spares and support equipment were not funded, the ANG would continue to have two mixed units of Js and Es. The 143 AW at Rhode Island and the 146 AW at Channel Islands have 4 extended C-130Js and 4 C-130Es each. A mixed fleet severely impacts unit operational capability, aircrew and maintenance training, logistics, and manpower issues. Not funding future J model acquisitions have delayed overall modernization of the ANG C-130 fleet and reduced the combat capability of the MAF as a number of C-130Es may be forced into premature retirement.
In September 2006 the declared an initial operational capability for the C-130J despite still being rated as only partially capable of some missions. In April 2006, DOD testing officials reported several shortfalls. Program officials planned to address future US Air Force needs and correct deficiencies identified during operational testing with modernization efforts funded by DOD and foreign military customers.
In October 2006, the program was transitioned into a FAR part 15 negotiated non-commercial contract mainly to facilitate collection of data on costs and pricing of the remaining 39 aircraft to be procured. Program officials estimate the Air Force will save approximately $168 million by converting to a noncommercial negotiated acquisition.
A 2008 GAO report reiterated that while program officials believed the initial C-130J design was stable, deficiencies were discovered that had to be corrected in order to meet minimum warfighter requirements, which resulted in the baseline aircraft at the time. Other design shortfalls to the baseline aircraft were discovered that affected the C-130J's ability to complete certain airdrop operations. Program officials stated that options to address these shortfalls were being developed and were expected to result in aircraft testing in the summer of 2008. Air navigation improvements had to be made so the C-130J could continue to successfully operate in international airspace. These improvements and others would be added to the aircraft through modernization efforts, resulting in a significant development cost increase. Program officials reported no issues with the design maturity of modernization efforts currently under way.
On 06 June 2016 the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Mobility Directorate signed a multiyear contract with Lockheed Martin to procure 78 C-130J Super Hercules with the option to buy up to 83 over the following five years. The agreement was the second multiyear contract for the C-130J and it saves the Defense Department about $680 million and provides the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard with important airlift capabilities. "This contract is significant because it provides the taxpayer with the best bang for their buck and allows our customers, including the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force Special Operations Command, and Air Force Mobility Command, to save money and use it for other requirements," said Joseph Fountain, a supervisory contract officer with the Mobility Directorate and lead negotiator on the contract with Lockheed.
Acquisition experts from the Mobility Directorate negotiated for three years to finalize the details of the contract which will provide new aircraft to replace legacy C-130H models and add to the J models currently in the Air Force fleet. The benefit of multiyear contracts versus year-to-year contracts is that they provide stability and cut costs. It allows Lockheed to sign long term supplier agreements and commitments, and invest in new equipment to produce the aircraft. The contract also funds an affordability program in which Lockheed receives $35 million up front and agrees to $65 million in labor reductions over the life of the contract, which according to Fountain will allow the company to assemble the aircraft more efficiently.
On August 09, 2016 Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. - Lockheed Martin Corp., Marietta, Georgia, was awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a not-to-exceed ceiling of $10,020,000,000. This is a cumulative ceiling to cover all future delivery orders within scope of this contract. Contractor will support the C-130J production program. Work will be performed at Marietta, Georgia, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 18, 2026. This contract involves foreign military sales. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2014, 2015 and 2016 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $14,231,322 are being obligated on the first delivery order at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8625-16-D-6458).
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