May 12, 2015
UK Set To Start C-130J Upgrade Flight Tests
Fitted out with an extensive suite of software and hardware improvements known as Block 7, the British C-130J kit installation trials aircraft is set to undertake months of operational test and evaluation work ahead of being further modified by prime contractor Lockheed Martin with additional capabilities known as Block 8.1.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said British flight trials on the Block 8.1 improvements are set to be completed in 2019.
The updates are crucial to the British and other C-130J fleet operators around the world as they provide additional capabilities for special operations forces and others.
The modifications will also allow operators to meet the latest civil air traffic management regulations. Without the update, C-130J aircraft will not be able to effectively operate in prescribed airspaces.
All seven members of the users group — Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the UK and the US — are contributing to the development, evaluation and trial kit installation phases of the program.
Britain operates 24 C-130Js but is scheduled to run that fleet down starting next year as the Royal Air Force begins operations of the first of 22 Airbus A400M airlifters it has on order.
Two aircraft have been delivered to the RAF with a third scheduled to be handed over soon. A further six machines are expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
As things stand, the British are scheduled to take the C-130J out of service by 2022, although there is a debate within the military as to whether seven or eight of the fleet are kept on for special forces duties.