That is, the stop-gap budget resolution signed into law by the president late last month includes funding for 16 copies of the vaunted C-130J Super Hercules cargo plane manufactured at Lockheed’s plant in Marietta. Not only is the “Herk” the biggest program under way at the plant, it’s also the second-largest program Lockheed Martin has, after the F-35 Lighting II fighter jet.
“We’re excited about that,” Lockheed VP and site General Manager Shan Cooper told the South Cobb Business Association on Wednesdayl. “It was just a tremendous, tremendous win for us.”
“I still hang my hat on the fact that it’s just a one-of-a-kind aircraft, and our customers love it, so that’s what I’m counting on, but again, I think we’ll be positioned well,” she said. “If you think about the longevity of our product line, we’ve been building the C-130 now for almost 60 years; the C-5 Galaxy, that aircraft was first developed in the ’60s; and the P-3 Orion, we celebrated its 50th anniversary last year; so think about the longevity of our products.”
Lockheed had expected the Pentagon to buy just seven C-130Js in the coming budget.
“We went into a continuing resolution, which is not unusual,” said Lockheed spokesman Johnny Whitaker. “Coming out of that continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, a.k.a., the stop-gap that (Obama) just signed, there were nine additional (C-130Js), so a total for fiscal year 2013 of 16 airplanes, which we welcome. That is great for us, that is great for Marietta, for the C-130 program.”
The new C-130s will be built for the Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. While its primary role is as a cargo plane, the C-130s also are used in a variety of other roles, such as transporting troops, evacuating wounded, delivering humanitarian supplies, and search-and-rescue. It is one of the most versatile and enduring airplanes ever flown, and all but the first two of the approximately 2,400 C-130s built thus far were manufactured at the Marietta plant.
The stop-gap funding also includes $200 million for advanced procurement of 20 additional C-130s; that is, funding to build components that have exceptionally long lead times, like various parts and systems and engines.
Meanwhile, the company is competing for the contract to build the Air Force’s new fast-jet trainer. The T-X program could mean an $8 billion to $10 billion contract for the plant and an additional 400 to 500 jobs. Some 6,800 people work there now, the fewest in more than a decade.
“So we are aggressively positioning ourselves to win that particular work first for Lockheed Martin, and then my goal is to go off and win it for Marietta,” Cooper said.
Lockheed Martin, and the workforce at the Marietta plant in particular, have a seven-decade track record of producing many of the world’s best aircraft. So it’s great news that there’s more work in the pipeline.