Lockheed Martin has delivered the 60th KC-130J Hercules tactical tanker-transport to the US Marine Corps (USMC), marking a significant milestone in the delivery of the type to the service.
This milestone was announced by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on April 29, although the handover had officially taken place on March 31. The aircraft – BuNo 170037 ‘BH-037’ (c/n 382-5909) – departed from Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, Georgia, on that date for delivery to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 (VMGR-252) ‘Heavy Haulers’ at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina.
The aircraft is significant in that it incorporates a number of capability improvements, providing improved navigational performance, a modernised cockpit and other key upgrades. The Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) accepted the aircraft, which had been outfitted with the Block 8.1 updated cockpit and AN/AAQ-24 Department of the Navy Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (DoN LAIRCM) system. These upgrades address obsolescence issues and improve the aircraft’s overall survivability.
The Block 8.1 cockpit upgrade includes a new flight management system, which complies with Communications, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management mandates. It also boasts enhanced global positioning system (GPS) capabilities, improved communications systems and improvements to the KC-130J’s identification friend-or-foe (IFF) technology. The addition of the DoN LAIRCM – a laser-based self-protection system designed to defend against surface-to-air infrared missile threats – increases the survivability of the aircraft and aircrews in the event of an airborne attack.
Capt Steve Nassau, the programme manager of PMA-207 with the US Navy, said: “Both these systems increase the aircraft’s combat effectiveness to perform the KC-130J core mission essential tasking. The KC-130J is a global workhorse and the Block 8.1 upgrade clears the path for the aircraft to have world-wide access, while the DoN LAIRCM allows the aircraft to operate under expanded threat environments.”
The USMC will receive its remaining 26 KC-130Js over the next five years, completing the fleet of 86 aircraft which was established in the service’s programme of record for the type.