Lockheed Martin officials launched the C-130J-SOF at the Paris Air Show on 20 June, the first ever special operations forces (SOF)-configured production variant of the Super Hercules transport aircraft to be offered for export.
The baseline C-130J-SOF comes in an ISR configuration that features an electro-optic/infrared imaging system in a turret under the nose, upgraded 60/90 KVA generators and 400 amp regulated transformer rectifier units that double the original electrical capacity of the C-130J, an armour protection system and lower fuselage protection for improved survivability under hostile fire, added crew stations for mission systems, automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) out positioning technology, microvanes to increase fuel efficiency, and external fuel tanks for increased range and mission loiter time.
To this baseline, however, can be added a number of SOF-specific capabilities, including a palletised roll-on/roll-off GAU-23 Bushmaster 30 mm automatic cannon, Hellfire air-to-surface missiles located on outer wing hardpoints, a refuelling probe or UARRSI system to receive fuel air to air; and a hose-and-drogue system to dispense fuel air to air.
The C-130J-SOF's mission set would initially cover ISR operations, psychological operations, airdrop resupply, personnel recovery, humanitarian relief, as well as infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of SOF personnel. With the added special mission equipment options, the aircraft could also perform armed overwatch duties, helicopter/fighter/vertical lift aerial refuelling, and forward area refuelling point (FARP) operations.
Briefing reporters at the Paris Air Show, Tony Frese, vice-president for business development for air mobility and maritime missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, explained that the C-130J-SOF would be produced on the same production line in Marietta, Georgia, as all the other nine C-130J variants. He said the internal plumbing and wiring required for add-on capabilities, such as the aerial refuelling systems and for firing Hellfire missiles, would be built into the C-130J-SOF as the most efficient way to facilitate future upgrades and that most of these systems "are already flying on users' C-130Js, so it's proven technology".
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