The New Zealand Government has signed an agreement with L3 Communications to complete the air force’s C130 Hercules aircraft life extension programme.

The $254m contract was awarded to L3 Systems in 2005 for the upgrade of five C130 aircraft.

Under the contract, L3 will upgrade two C130s and return them to the air force for test and evaluation by the end of 2010.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the first of the three aircraft was now expected to enter the modification programme in early 2011.

The programme will include the upgrade of the aircraft centre wings, a major rewire, replacement of avionics systems, flight management, autopilot, and navigation and communication suites.