Lockheed Martin has handed over the first HC-130J Hercules outfitted with the Block 8.1 upgrade to the US Coast Guard (USCG).
The delivery took place during a ceremony on January 31 at the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina – attended by representatives from Lockheed Martin and the USCG. The event celebrated the completion of operational testing of the first Block 8.1-equipped aircraft.
The aircraft will now be placed into active service and is the first of a minimum of six Block 8.1 upgrade kits that Lockheed Martin is currently contracted to deliver to the USCG.
The upgrade adds advanced new capabilities, such as a new flight management system that complies with CNS/ATM mandates and includes vertical navigation with coupled auto throttle. It also features an improved PA system, additional covert lighting, a CNS/ATM data link, IAMSAR-compliant search pattern programming, enhanced approach/landing and inter-communications systems, along with a civil GPS, expanded diagnostics and new ground power modes.
Peter London, director of Tactical Airlift programmes for Lockheed Martin’s Air Mobility and Maritime Missions department, said: “The [USCG] has relied on its Hercules fleet for more than 60 years to support complicated missions that ensure our nation’s safety and security.”
He added: “The advanced features and purpose-built design enhancements found in the Block 8.1 upgrade ensure that coast guard crews will rely on the HC-130J for mission support for many more decades to come.”
The USCG is acquiring a new fleet of 22, fully missionised HC-130J Hercules long-range surveillance, heavy transport and maritime patrol aircraft to replace its older HC-130Hs. The service is also integrating its Minotaur mission system architecture into its fixed-wing aircraft which will be incorporated through post-production modification of new HC-130J aircraft.