21 Juni 2010
RNZAF's C-130H Hercules (photo : StereoImage)
New Zealand’s Lockheed Martin C-130H upgrade programme is years behind schedule, but the country’s defence minister is confident that the first upgraded aircraft will be ready in the coming weeks.
The first modernised transport will to come to New Zealand in July or August, with the second to follow shortly after that, says defence minister Wayne Mapp.
The most recent delays to the programme were caused by software integration issues, says Mapp, who adds: “This was a lot more challenging than anyone anticipated.”
Work on the first two aircraft has largely been completed, but they are still at L-3 Communications' facility in Texas because subcontractor Honeywell is perfecting the software that has been installed, says a source in New Zealand’s defence ministry.
Once the first aircraft returns to New Zealand, it will have to undergo further testing by the air force before being properly inducted into the fleet, adds the source.
The upgrade involves installing a new avionics system, glass cockpit and navigation and communications suites, as well as structural work on the wings.
Mapp says Air New Zealand’s maintenance, repair and overhaul company Safe Air will still perform the upgrade work on the air force’s other three C-130Hs.
Safe Air announced in February that it was axing about 100 positions because of lengthy delays in the programme. It had expected to receive its first Hercules in August 2008, but the defence ministry source says it will now get this before the end of this year.
Safe Air is already performing a mission systems upgrade to the air force’s Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft fleet. Work on the first of six aircraft was done by L-3 in the USA and the aircraft is undergoing testing.
“We are hopeful the aircraft will arrive in New Zealand in the fourth quarter,” says the source. “The second Orion is now in at Safe Air.” A third aircraft will enter work later this year, and the entire programme is scheduled to be completed in 2012.