Lockheed has made its first sale of the LM-100J, a commercial version of the C-130J. (Lockheed Martin)
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — ASL Aviation Group has become the first customer for Lockheed Martin’s LM-100J, the new civil version of its popular C-130J military cargo transport, in a move that could potentially create return for military customers down the line.
The companies signed a letter of intent to procure 10 freighters at a press event Wednesday at the Farnborough International Airshow.
It’s not the first time Lockheed has pursued a commercial variant for its cargo platforms, but production on the L-100 ended in 1992, leaving a two-decade gap between models.
ASL, an Ireland-based company that provides aviation services globally, is one of the largest operators of the L-100 through its Safair subsidiary. Hugh Flynn, the CEO of ASL, said the LM-100J would be part of a “gentle transition” away from the older fleet.
The LM-100J adds numbers to the C-130J production line, which already pumps out 24 planes a year. That could lead to potential savings and help make the business case for re-entering the commercial market, said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division.
“As we continue to build out C-130J today, as we add in the orders we receive commercially for the LM-100J, they will get to take advantage of the same efficiencies of the production line,” Carvalho said.
He added that the LM-100J made “a lot of sense” for Lockheed after studying the market, but warned there aren’t many other platforms available in Lockheed’s stable to turn into commercial derivatives.
After all, the commercial opportunities for an F-35 are rather limited, and while the C-5 is a cargo platform, it is hard to picture non-militaries who would need that level of capability.
In order to maintain the investment, Lockheed is targeting 12-15 civil airplanes a year.
Instead, the company is looking at smaller opportunities, such as in unmanned vehicles. Carvalho pointed to the company’s Stalker XE unmanned system, a surveillance platform with eight plus hours of flight time, as an option for civilian or commercial markets. ■