Lockheed Martin’s brand new updated civilian variant of the C-130 was recently spotted in Puerto Rico, apparently transporting hurricane relief supplies and equipment. The photo above of the LM-100J was posted on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s Facebook page October 23 along with an article about an Incident Management Team’s assignment (see below).
One reason this could be of interest to the fire aviation community is that last year the Forest Service advertised for the purchase of at least one new aircraft that would be used as an air tanker. The solicitation issued November 18, 2016 indicated that the agency intended to buy between one and seven “new production commercial aircraft to operate primarily as airtankers”. This procurement would spend the $65 million appropriated by Congress in December, 2014 “for the purpose of acquiring aircraft for the next-generation airtanker fleet to enhance firefighting mobility, effectiveness, efficiency, and safety…”. A quick review of the specifications showed that they might fit the LM-100J which is rumored to cost around $65 million.
However, the FS canceled the solicitation in June of this year. When we asked why, FS spokesperson Jennifer Jones said the only information available was:
The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing its requirements for the airtanker.
The aircraft in Puerto Rico looks very much like the artist’s conception published a couple of years ago by Lockheed Martin.
The first test flight of the new LM-100J occurred May 25 over Georgia and Alabama.
“I was proud to fly the first flight of our LM-100J. It performed flawlessly, as is typical of our military C‑130J new production aircraft,” said Wayne Roberts, chief test pilot for the LM-100J Program. “This new model will perform many commercial roles in the decades to come, like humanitarian service following natural disasters and others like nuclear accident response, oil spill containment, and firefighting.
The second LM-100J produced flew last week for the first time, on October 19.
The aircraft is an updated version of the L-100 cargo aircraft, produced by Lockheed Martin from 1964 to 1992.
If I was a little bit cynical, I would wonder if Lockheed Martin made the aircraft available for the Puerto Rico flight, in part, hoping it would be photographed. A little publicity for a new model of aircraft does not hurt.