Lockheed Martin has revealed the appearance of the EC-130J TACAMO, the next aircraft to be used by the United States Navy to command its fleet of nuclear submarines.
It is an Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center, dubbed ‘Doomsday’ plane, based on the venerable Lockheed C-130 Hercules turboprop transporter.
An artist’s impression of the aircraft has been spotted at Lockheed Martin’s stand at the 2022 Sea-Air-Space exposition organized by the US Navy League.
Lockheed Martin shows off the EC-130J-30 TACAMO for the first time at #SAS22. You can compare to the old EC-130Q that was replaced by the E-6B. pic.twitter.com/SU5Q6LaleB— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) April 4, 2022
The US Navy is currently working on procuring three such aircraft for testing, with plans to receive the first in 2026, The War Zone reports.
The EC-130J is based on the C-130J Super Hercules, the latest variant of the C-130, which was originally designed in the 1950s.
The new aircraft will replace the Boeing E-6 Mercury, a Boeing 707-based platform, which has served the role since the late 1980s.
The E-6 Mercury replaced the Lockheed EC-130E Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center that served with the US Navy between the 1970s and the 1990s. Therefore, the E-6 has both superseded and has itself been superseded by a C-130-based platform.
According to a US Navy spokesperson interviewed by the War Zone, a smaller, turboprop-powered aircraft will add more flexibility to the operations and be more convenient to operate in comparison with the ageing E-6.
Multiple projects are currently in development to modify and adapt the C-130 airframe for various other roles in the US military, including a seaplane variant.