March 6, 2010: Tunisia has ordered two C-130J-30, the extra long (stretched) model, joining a growing list of foreign, and especially Middle Eastern, nations doing so. Continued delays in the AirBus A400M (a similar, but larger, aircraft) has made the C-130J-30 an attractive buy.
The C-130J transport has proved to be more than just another upgrade of the fifty year old C-130 design. Mainly because the J model is much cheaper and easier to use. Like most new commercial transports, the C-130 emphasizes saving money. The new engines generate 29 percent more thrust while using 15 percent less fuel. Increased automation reduced crew size from four to three. The C-130J is more reliable and easier to maintain. And this isn't all predictions. So far, C-130Js have cost nearly twenty percent less per hour than previous models.
The most common version of the C-130 still in service is the C-130H. It has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C-130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The stretched C-130J-30 can carry more bulky cargo, and goes for about $100 million each. The C-130J has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H. The C-130 has been in service for over half a century, and has been in service of over 50 countries.
The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, used a billion dollars of its own money to develop the C-130J, which ended up costing much more than the previous model, C-130H. But the C-130J was far superior to the C-130H. Nevertheless, the U.S. Air Force still finds it cost effective to upgrade and refurbish several hundred older C-130s, mainly by replacing the center portion (the wing box), which is most prone to fatigue, and installing new electronics (which makes the aircraft cheaper to operate and maintain.) But many older C-130s are simply too expensive to upgrade, so sales of the C-130J will continue to climb.