C130H cockpit after upgrade (photo : NZDF)
The Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) first pair of upgraded Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules aircraft are undergoing an operational test and evaluation process, while the remaining three are undergoing an extensive life estension programme (LEP).
The two upgraded aircraft are based at RNZAF Auckland for the evaluations and have already flown as far afield as Europe, the US, Antarctica, Australia, and Pacific Islands, said the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).
"The final three aircraft are being modified at RNZAF Woodbourne under the management of a Ministry of Defence team led by Graeme Gilmore, a highly experience engineering manager and executive," said the NZDF. Work on the first of the three remaining aircraft commenced in April 2011 and should be completed in June 2012.
New Zealand's LEP for its 1960s era C-130s involves a number of major upgrades. It includes refurbishment of the centre wings, refurbishment or replacement of other structural components, rewiring work, and new avionics.
The aircraft also receive new flight management, autopilot, navigation and communications upgrades as well as a glass cockpit.
"This will ensure that the aircraft continue to comply with evolving air traffic control regulations worldwide," said the NZDF.
"Without this upgrade, the aircraft would be restricted in operation in various air traffic environments," it added.
Other benefits include improved airworthiness, easier supportability and improved self protection against new threats.
The Woodbourne team undertaking the work for the final three aircraft includes L-3 Systems, Safe Air, Aviation Labour Group, the RNZAF and other contractors. The first two were upgraded by L-3 Communications in the US.