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August 10, 2009—One of the three C-130 avionics modernization program test aircraft sporting its new digital cockpit dropped by Hickam AFB, Hawaii, last week on a Pacific region tour designed to provide an evaluation of its integrated systems as it flew across international datelines. Testing with the third AMP-Herk began ahead of schedule this spring, and USAF already had given Boeing a low rate initial production contract last fall for the first two LRIP AMP kits. However, there is some question at this point whether Congress will continue to fund the C-130 AMP, in which USAF planned to upgrade about 221 Hercules (the three test aircraft and 218 others currently in H2, H2.5, and H3 configurations).

The current LRIP plan called Boeing to provide 26 production kits and install them on 11 aircraft, with the remainder installed by Air Force depot technicians and some by other as-yet-determined companies.

However, both defense appropriators and authorizers zeroed the C-130 AMP dollars in the 2010 defense budget request, despite expressing some support for the program.

According to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the Air Force will not be able to execute 2008 and 2009 funding until sometime this summer, obviating the need for any more funding until 2011. Both committees, and the House Appropriations Committee, removed $209.5 million for the C-130 AMP in the 2010 defense budget request.

All three committees cite the program's one-year delay in starting production as proof it doesn't need the 2010 funding.

However, according to defense analyst Loren Thompson, the lawmakers are making decisions based on outdated information about "problems that don't actually exist."

And yet, OSD may be reconsidering its support for the program, having recently delayed the Milestone C decision that would have permitted continued production.  


(Hickam report by SSgt. Carolyn Viss)