Lockheed Offers C-130 Option for Maritime Patrol
Lockheed Martin has revamped a seven-year-old concept for a maritime patrol variant of the C-130 to refocus it as a mission kit that can be retrofitted on existing or new-build aircraft.
The announcement on June 17 at the Show means Lockheed has moved away from an older proposal for a “Sea Hercules” configuration only available on new-production aircraft, which never gained traction in the market.
“The [retrofit] concept seems to be resonating with the customers,” said Tony Frese, vice president of business development of air mobility for Lockheed.
The retrofit kit simplifies the structural changes required to convert the C-130 into a platform capable of hunting submarines and surface vessels, Frese said. At the same time, the mission systems inside the cargo bay can be removed from the aircraft, allowing the service to use the C-130 for other missions, he explained.
Most importantly, the retrofitted mission kit removes a requirement to integrate large sponsons to store and launch torpedoes, he said. Instead, the new maritime patrol kit launches torpedoes from the cargo ramp, which is adapted from an existing capability to launch sea mines from the C-130’s cargo ramp, Frese said.
The configuration also includes adding a tail boom to house a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), which can track submarines by detecting the disturbances they cause to the earth’s magnetic field as they maneuver beneath the surface.
Some customers, however, prefer a configuration that integrates the MAD into the belly of the fuselage, so Lockheed is exploring new technologies that may enable such a design, Frese noted. The MAD is usually integrated in a tail boom to avoid interfering with the electronics in the rest of the aircraft, but Frese said new technologies may allow for a fuselage-mounted MAD that causes no interference.
The kit also includes a variety of sensors in the baseline configuration, including a fuselage-mounted multi-mode radar, a turret-mounted electro-optical infrared camera and electronic eavesdropping systems.
Lockheed also plans to offer the C-130 kit with a variety of air-dropped stores, including sonobuoys, torpedoes and air-to-surface missiles. An optional weapon could include a 30-mm gun.
The new configuration remains only in the stage of studies and reviews, but Lockheed hopes to offer the kit for C-130 operators in Europe and Asia, Frese said.