Lockheed says initial contacts with France about C-130s

PARIS (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N, the largest U.S. weapons maker, on Tuesday said it had been in "initial contact" with French government officials about their interest in buying some C-130J transport planes to augment a fleet of larger A400M transports built by Europe's Airbus AIR.PA.

Reuters reported last month that France’s defense ministry had added several hundreds of millions of euros into its latest defense budget for the possible purchase of four C-130J Super Hercules planes due to problems with the A400M.

“There has been some initial contact with the French government,” Orlando Carvalho, who heads Lockheed’s aeronautics division, told Reuters in an interview at the Paris air show, citing the different payload and ranges of the two transports.

“We believe the French military is just looking to have a force structure that gives them the tactical airlift that they need together with the strategic airlift that the A400M is providing,” he said. “We’re obviously happy to sell them some C-130s.”

Carvalho said the talks were still preliminary and there was “still a long way to go” before any contracts were signed.

Lockheed has sold C-130s to India, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East, and said it was continuing to see strong international demand for the C-130s, Carvalho said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Potter