Since its first flight in 1996, the C-130J has become a firm favourite of Middle Eastern air arms. Steve Pigott, Lockheed Martin international vice president for air mobility and maritime programmes, is unsurprised by this. “The C-130J has great performance in hot and desert environments, so we expect more orders in the MENA region,” he told the IDEX Show Daily.
Qatar is now operating all four of the stretched C-130J-30s that it ordered, while Tunisia has both of its C-130J-30s in service. Oman has two standard C-130Js and one C-130J-30 in service, Kuwait has three KC-130J tanker/transports, and Iraq has six C-130J-30s. In Saudi Arabia, where the sale of 25 C-130Js has been notified to US Congress, two C-130Js are now on order.
Saudi Arabia is already an operator of the ‘classic C-130’ or ‘Heritage Herc’, with a fleet of about 50 aircraft – making it the largest C-130 operator outside the USA.
The C-130J would also seem to be a good fit for the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, though it faces competition from the faster, jet-powered Embraer KC-390, the thrifty Airbus Military C295 and the rugged Alenia C-27J – all of which represent lower cost options than the Lockheed offering, but none of which offer the range performance of the Hercules.
Hercules support in the region will be enhanced with the opening of a new facility at Al Ain – the product of a partnership between Lockheed and AMMROC – which is just one part of a truly global support infrastructure for the C-130.
Lockheed is now offering a dedicated commercial LM-100J, based on the C-130J-30. Although this is a commercial aircraft, it is possible that it will be purchased by military customers, like its predecessor the L100-30, which is in service with the UAE Air Force and Air Defence.