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UK extends Hercules out-of-service date to 2035

24 July 2019
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The RAF is to fly its 14 C-130J/C-130J-30 airlifters through to 2035 following a service-life extension from its earlier 2030 retirement date. Source: Crown Copyright Resize Assets. Source: Crown Copyright

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is to extend its fleet of 14 Lockheed Martin C-130J/C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft by a further five years, with a new out-of-service date (OSD) of 2035.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Jane's on 24 July that its fleet of one 'short' C-130J C5 and 13 'long' C-130J-30 C4 aircraft has had its projected OSD pushed back for a second time, following an extension from 2022 to 2030 that was announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015.

As stated in SDSR 2015, the RAF at that time planned to divest its 10 C-130Js while retaining its 14 C-130J-30s. However, in June 2018 Jane's reported that one of these C-130J-30s was abandoned in Iraq following a heavy landing, leaving just 13 in the inventory. On 9 August 2018 an MoD spokesperson told Jane's that it is still the intention to field 14 Hercules, which necessitated the retention of one C-130J.

In order to see the fleet through to 2030 and now 2035, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group has begun work on the centre-wing box (CWB) replacement effort for all 14 aircraft. This CWB work is part of a wider GBP350 million (USD436 million) investment in the C-130J/ C-130J-30 fleet announced by the MoD in September 2016. Of this, about GBP200 million is being spent on key components to maintain the life of the aircraft, and GBP150 million on upgrading the fleet with new capabilities.

The C-130J/C-130J-30s replaced the RAF's fleet of 66 C-130Ks, which were first introduced in 1966 and retired in 2013. The C-130J/C-130J-30 will eventually be replaced by the Airbus Defence and Space A400M Atlas. Although the A400M will be used to carry out the special forces work now done by the C-130J/C-130J-30, it will take time to fully roll out this capability (and in some cases, it might remain preferential to use the smaller C-130J/C-130J-30).

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