Lockheed Martin performed the first flight of its new LM-100J Super Hercules commercial freighter on 25 May.
The latest civil variant of the military C-130J departed the company’s Marietta production facility in Georgia for a maiden flight that its test pilot described as ‘flawless’. This milestone, which follows the rollout in February, clears the way for a flight test campaign and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification.
Lockheed Martin has launched this 17th mission capability that it has developed for the C-130J to broaden its market in the face of shrinking of global defence budgets in general, and of Pentagon budgets in particular.
As with the earlier L-100 variant of the Hercules that was built between 1964 and 1992 (during which time 115 were delivered), the LM-100J is earmarked for a range of civil applications such as oversized cargo transport; oil dispersion/aerial spray; oil and gas exploration; mining logistics operations; aerial firefighting; aerial delivery; medevac/air ambulance; humanitarian relief operations; personnel transport; austere field operations; and search and rescue.
Although billed as a commercial platform, the LM-100J will also be targeted at governmental and military users who perhaps do not require some of the more advanced, and consequently more expensive, features of the C-130J. For example, secure communications and electronic warfare equipment, racks, and wiring are all eliminated in the civil aircraft. As well as reducing the procurement cost (Lockheed Martin has previously given a unit cost of about USD60 million and USD70 million for an LM-130J, compared to approximately USD100 million for a C-130J), this reduces weight and fuel costs, as well as maintenance and sustainment costs. As such, the company sees a particular application with the militaries of some of the less developed parts of the world, such as Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia.
Military customers that have acquired the L-100 have included Argentina, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.