MaxDefense sources from the DND confirms that the airframe was granted by the US government, and the estimated $61 million costs under FMS may cover the refurbishing and ancillary works included together in the deal, similar to what was done on the 2 Hamilton-class cutters received by the Philippines a few years ago. Being an estimated value, MaxDefense believes that the costs may still increase due to unseen circumstances, or additional expenses incurred during actual refurbishing works. Previous deals with other countries on the sale of EDA legacy C-130 Hercules aircraft shows such increase in actual costs.
|A US Navy C-130T doing touch-and-go runs.|
Photo taken from Goleta Air & Space Museum website.
The Lockheed C-130T Hercules are actually limited in numbers, with only around 20 units produced and are used by either US Navy and US Marine Corps for logistics support requirements and aerial refueling operations. They were built between 1991 and 1996, and are the last legacy C-130s delivered to the US military before Lockheed Martin proceeded to build the new C-130J Super Hercules. 19 units are operated by various US Navy logistics support squadrons, while 1 was used with the Blue Angels precision aerobatic team as the current "Fat Albert". 19 units were upgraded by BAE Systems with a glass cockpit system, and are equipped with a Garmin GNS 480 GPS system, an electronic flight bag, electronic horizontal situation indicator and engine instrument display system. One unit was reportedly not included in the said upgrades, and MaxDefense believes that unit is the Blue Angels' "Fat Albert".
|The Blue Angels' "Fat Albert" exhibition aircraft, although with USMC markings, the aircraft is actually with the US Navy.|
Photo taken from Airliners.net c/o Kevin Scott - Jetwash Images.
Upgrades made by Lockheed Martin to the C-130T is said to extend the mission capabilities of the aircraft for another 20 years - and that's according to US standards. This means the PAF has a modern C-130 in its hands, systemtically almost comparable to early Super Hercules at a small fraction of the price.
US Navy C-130T are different from the KC-130T being operated by the US Marine Corps, although both are closely related to the Air Force's C-130H. The US Navy intends to replace the C-130T with the newer C-130J Super Hercules, and it is expected that more C-130Ts will be retired from service, which can also be offered for FMS or grants to friendly countries like the Philippines. Previous MaxDefense blog entries discussed these plans for more C-130s and this current deal might be the first of few more to come.
Being an additional transport asset, it is expected to be operated by the the 220th Airlift Wing based in Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu. MaxDefense sources confirms that the offer was made by the US government in the aftermath of the Typhoon Haiyan, although there was a long standing request for EDA C-130s by the Philippines to the US government. It is expected that the US government will offer more C-130s in the near future, depending on the Philippine government's capacity to acquire and maintain more. There are also reports of acquiring C-130H from Australia, but may prove false since Indonesia has reportedly paid for the acquisition of all 9 excess units formerly operated by the Royal Australian Air Force even after the spying scandal between Australia and Indonesia cooled down.
|The C-130T's updated cockpit, which was changed to glass cockpit recently by Lockheed Martin. This is a far difference from the PAF's own C-130B & H models.|
Photo taken from Lockheed Martin website.
Although there were reports that the upcoming C-130T are being optimized for dual mission duties as a heavy tactical transport and a long range maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft using palletized systems, MaxDefense has not received confirmation on this. If this was true, MaxDefense will provide updates on the blog entry. But this set-up won't be impossible as Lockheed Martin already made earlier confirmation of offering the DND and PAF of using its C-130s or any other aircraft as a platform to integrate maritime patrol surveillance systems.
MaxDefense believes though that the C-130 is not the best platform for MPA duties for the PAF, even with its proven track record, reliability, range and stability on adverse weather. This is due to the lack of enough transport assets within the PAF where additional C-130s in the transport role are sorely needed. Its massive size and higher operating costs makes it impractical, especially when compared to contemporary new MPA platforms being offered for the upcoming Long Range Patrol Aircraft. Still, it would be a welcome addition to the PAF's limited capability, and the responsibility to make decision would be PAF's call as they know their requirements better than those outside the system, including MaxDefense.