Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It was announced Monday that the Canadian Armed Forces intends to select a new tatical transport aircraft as soon as possible. The requirement is for some 16 aircraft and will run in the range of 4.5 billion dollars Canadian. My guess is that the most likely candidate for the contract is the Lockheed C130J Hercules. Others think so too, including those in the aviation biz who figure the requirements for the program are biased towards the C130J. Other proposed candidates include the Airbus A400 and the Boeing C17. But its not hard to see why the JHerc has the advantage. The C17 is generally believed to be too expensive, running around 200 million bucks American a plane, although there had been talk of leasing them instead of outright purchase. The A400 hasn't even flown yet, and military projects have a notorious habit of being delayed past their initial first flights and so on. The C130J is currently in production. More importantly its a modern version of the Hercules aircraft the Armed Forces already fly, which should help reduce training times and so forth. The big problem with the current Canadian examples is that too many of them are too old and nearing the end of their service lives. They need to be replaced. Indeed some of them probably should have been replaced years ago, just as the Chretien government shouldn't have played politics with the military search and rescue and maritime helicopter programs, resulting in aged CH124 Sea King maritime copters still being in use long after they should have gone.

As for the Hercules itself its amazing to think that the design first flew in 1954. Few if any aircraft have stayed in production as long as the dear old Herc. How much longer it will stay in production is unclear. The J may be the last model produced, as there is speculation that the US military may cease ordering the aircraft in the near future, leading to an eventual shutdown of the production line sometime around 2010. Perhaps we'll see some of the last units to come off the line end up in Canadian hands.

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