The US Navy awarded aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin a $62 million contract to upgrade its Super Hercules C-130J-30 cargo plane for the E-XX TACAMO (TACAMO meaning “Take Charge Or Move Out”) program’s nuclear missions. 

The E-XX TACAMO program initiative, responsible for relaying orders from the President to submarines carrying nuclear weapons, demands a highly adaptable and reliable aircraft, a significant factor in the Navy’s decision to choose Lockheed Martin.

The Navy’s choice of Lockheed Martin’s Super Hercules  C-130J-30 showcases the cargo plane as the core of their next-generation nuclear command, control, and communications aircraft, highlighting the aerospace giant’s engineering and military technology expertise. US Navy’s Strategic Command chief Admiral Charles Richard  in his earlier statements in a media briefing last January 2021, stated that the Navy “is making a great decision to go to the C-130” and that the naval forces are “fully capable of supporting my mission requirements to ensure survivable communications to the ballistic missile submarines.”

Super Hercules 

Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr
Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr


The Super Hercules C-130J-30 is a four-engine turboprop military aircraft in service since the 1950s. Its long range, high payload capacity, and ability to operate in austere environments make it an ideal choice for a wide range of military operations. Lockheed Martin stated that the company had made significant upgrades to the Super Hercules C-130J-30 over the years, including advanced avionics, mission systems integration, and state-of-the-art engines. These upgrades have improved the plane’s reliability, safety, and effectiveness.

The E-XX TACAMO program requires an aircraft that can operate in harsh weather conditions and be easily modified for new communication technologies. According to Navy officials, the C-130J-30’s rugged design and adaptable platform suit the role in the E-XX TACAMO program well. Furthermore, Lockheed Martin’s extensive experience developing command and communication technologies ensures that the aircraft will be equipped with the latest and most advanced systems.

Industry insiders also affirm that with its advanced features and operational deployability, the Super Hercules C-130J-30 will be a critical asset to the Navy’s command and communication infrastructure, especially for the mentioned program initiative for nuclear missions.

The Best Choice

Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr
Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr

The Navy selected the Super Hercules C-130J-30 after an extensive analysis of competing alternatives, including Raytheon Intelligence and Space and Northrop Grumman. The $62 million contract modification awarded to Lockheed Martin is an essential investment in the Navy’s national security capabilities. 

“Lockheed Martin Corporation is the sole designer, developer, and manufacturer of the C-130J-30 and is the only source capable of producing the C-130J and derivative aircraft and providing support equipment, logistics support, defensive systems services, and engineering services,” the Navy’s announcement said.

“The Analysis of Alternatives results indicated that the four-engine, militarized C-130J-30 is optimally configured for the TACAMO mission. The characteristics of this airframe also maximize the operational deployability of the assets in austere environments. The C-130 is extensively fielded within the Department of Defense and deployed at various bases that create operation, training, and logistics support synergies for TACAMO execution.”

The Navy’s announcement further stressed that “Lockheed Martin already has an established domestic production line that can produce test units for PMA271 that will enable acceleration of the risk reduction and subsequent engineering and manufacturing development test program.”

Take Charge or Move Out

Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr
Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr


The E-XX TACAMO program, playing a critical role in carrying Presidential orders to submarines carrying nuclear weapons, makes the initiative one of the most important initiatives within the Department of Defense and the US Navy.

With the Super Hercules C-130J-30 as its core, the program will be able to operate at peak efficiency and ensure that the President’s orders are carried out without delay.

In an earlier press statement by the Navy, Lockheed Martin’s C-130J-30 takes over the  E-6B trainer aircraft for the E-XX-TACAMO Program, with the latter described by Airborne Strategic Command, Control, and Communications Program Office as an “aging aircraft.” 

Lockheed Martin’s Super Hercules Provides Enhanced Airlift Capabilities for Indonesian Air Force

Read Next: Lockheed Martin’s Super Hercules Provides Enhanced Airlift Capabilities for Indonesian Air Force

“The aging aircraft is making it more of a challenge to maintain, but we continue to find ways to get the job done and provide operational readiness,” Control and Communications Program’s Admiral Scott said.

The Navy’s press statement further explained that the E-6B trainer airframe has been used by the naval forces for more than 30 years, operated with the previous E-6A aircraft in 1989 for TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) missions. The mentioned aircraft was modified to the E-6B trainer aircraft, arriving in 1997, and completed total modification in 2003. 

Time For A Change 

Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr
Super Hercules C-130J-30/Flickr

 Sustaining our readiness has never been more vital to our nation’s future,” Chief of Naval Operations Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a prepared statement. “Meanwhile, our force design requires a relentless focus on modernization to keep our platforms relevant.”

The Department of Defense has been using the Super Hercules C-130J-30 in its missions, deployed in bases worldwide, the Navy’s statement confirmed. With that in mind, the program has been working on a recapitalization aircraft (E-XX) that will take over the TACAMO mission. The program will use a variant of the militarized Super Hercules C-130J for E-XX TACAMO testing.

“The program is also working on communications and mission systems integration contracts for the recapitalization aircraft to help modernize the strategic nuclear deterrent.”

Admiral Scott added that “for the nation and our allies, we are making sure the President can reach our strategic forces now and in the future.”