Okay, so technically speaking it’s the C-130’s newest civilian counterpart, the LM-100J, but it comes equipped with the very same Rolls-Royce AE 2100 D3 turboprop engines and six-blade Dowty R391 propellers that come standard on its military sibling. Yet, its availability on the civilian market doesn’t make seeing such a massive aircraft doing a loop any less awe-inspiring.
The LM-100J is just the most recent iteration of the LM-100, Lockheed Martin’s non-military variant on the legendary aircraft that has been on the market since the early 1960s. All told, Lockheed has delivered 114 of these aircraft to customers during the plane’s production run, which ended in 1992. Now, Lockheed Martin is looking to get back into the civilian C-130 market and they knew that in order to do so, they needed to make a splash. And at around $60 million apiece the new LM-100J needs to look like a good bang for a billionaire customer’s buck.
Of course, some of what differentiates this new LM-100J from its predecessors warrants consideration: For example, the 1,000 nautical miles to the aircraft’s range while carrying a 35,000-pound payload and its Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system that eliminates the need for having a flight engineer on board.
The plane’s improved fuel economy and the cost savings associated with eliminating the flight engineer make the new LM-100J a more promising option for companies that need to land and offload supplies in places where there is no new fuel available. With a maximum range (with that generic 35,000-pound payload figure) of 1,800 miles, the old LM-100 needed to refuel upon delivery in many parts of the world, but with a new range of around 2,800 miles, the aircraft could feasibly make those same deliveries without needing to be topped off while unloading. That, combined with the platform’s legendary ability to land and take off from rough terrain, means the new LM-100J could be a valuable tool for companies operating in underdeveloped regions of the world like Africa.
“They obviously did its design right,” said Tom Wetherall, director of LM-100J Business Development for Lockheed Martin. “It’s been in production for 60 years. It’s got a high-wing. It’s a turboprop. The engines and propellers are out of harm’s way… The straight-wing yields the efficiency to get in and out of dirt runways, to get the weight off the wheels as soon as possible. The fuselage is low to the ground at truck-bed height, which combines with the rear loading capability. It’s a configuration that’s second to none.”
Further, because about 80 percent of the LM-100J’s parts are interchangeable with legacy LM-100s and military C-130s, getting parts or service for the aircraft wouldn’t be much trouble just about anywhere in the world. Since the C-130 has been in operation globally since the 1950s, there are plenty of spare parts laying around.
But how do you really get a potential customer’s attention? Put the thing in the air and see what it can do, and based on this footage, the LM-100J (as well as its military sibling, the C-130) can do some pretty crazy stuff. Watch the video below!
This article was originally published in November 2019. It has been edited for republication.