The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) a £369m Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS) contract.

Under the terms of the contract, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce will jointly deliver HIOS and provide continued support for the C-130J fleet until 2022.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "This contract is further evidence of what the growing defence budget with £178bn investment in equipment means for the UK.

"It will secure around 1,200 skilled jobs and ensure our essential RAF transport aircraft are prepared for operations for years to come."

The aircraft features an enhanced cargo handling system, the latest flight station, electronic, digital readouts for aircraft flight controls, and operating and navigating systems.

Powered by four Allison AE2100D3 turboprop engines, the C-130J Super Hercules is designed to conduct airborne assault, search-and-rescue (SAR), scientific research support, weather reconnaissance and aerial refuelling, and maritime patrol and aerial fire fighting missions.

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"It will secure around 1,200 skilled jobs and ensure our essential RAF transport aircraft are prepared for operations for years to come."

Fitted with a glass cockpit, digital avionics and a new propulsion system with a six-bladed propeller, the aircraft can accommodate a payload of up to 20t and more than 90 passengers.

The contract will primarily focus on the 24 C-130Js following the retirement of the C-130K variant.

Lockheed Martin UK CEO Stephen Ball said: "Over the last 60 years, Lockheed Martin has delivered 2,500 C-130 Hercules, capable of supporting 100 different mission requirements.

"This contract will ensure we are able to continue the good work recognised by the Minister’s procurement award and make RAF C-130s available to support a variety of missions in defence of the UK’s security."

The aircraft is also operated by the air forces of Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, the UK and the US. The work will be carried out at the company’s facilities in Havant, Stansted and Cheltenham.

Image: An aircraft on the runway. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.