The Air Force issued a $29.6 million radio upgrade contract to bring its legacy C-130 fleet into compliance with European airspace rules, contractor Raytheon announced on Dec. 10. “Our focus is on ensuring Hercules operators can communicate freely, reliably, and securely wherever their missions take them,” company airborne communications vice president Scott Whatmough said in a release. Raytheon will upgrade a total of 178 C-130Hs—the bulk of the Air Force’s legacy Hercules fleet—with new Very-High Frequency communications radios. The company has already upgraded the Air Force’s remaining C-130H1s, as well as the New York Air National Guard’s LC-130 Skibirds under previous contracts, according to the company. Global air traffic management compatibility forced the Air Force to revive a scaled-back version of its canceled C-130 Avionics Modernization Program. The new radios will allow the aircraft to continue operating in European airspace, and are part of overall modifications aimed at maintaining basic flight safety and compliance with international standards.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.