UK Royal Air Force (RAF) chiefs have approved an uplift of aircrew and supporting engineering resources for their C-130J Hercules tactical airlift fleet in response to an accident report into the loss of an aircraft in the Middle East in August 2017, which highlighted personnel shortfalls as a factor in the incident.
In-year funding to increase C-130J crews from 20 to 28 was approved by RAF Air Command on 26 September 2019, according to a UK Freedom of Information (FOI) release sent to Jane's by the command's secretariat at RAF High Wycombe on 20 January.
Funding to sustain the additional crews to the C-130Js' out-of-service date of 2035 was approved by Air Command on 23 October 2019, according to the FOI response.
"The funding for both [items] came on line immediately on implementation," said the Air Command Secretariat, which added that both decisions "were approved by Air Command Director of Resources within the overall Air Command delegated budget".
The Air Command Secretariat declined to provide specific numbers of personnel assigned to 47, 24, and 206 Squadrons, which operate and support the RAF's 14 C-130Js from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, or the cost of the uplift package, citing operational security issues. According to the RAF website, its C-130Js usually fly with two pilots, one ground engineer (loadmaster) and a weapons systems operator, suggesting the uplift will involve at least 32 additional crews.
Investigators from the UK's Defence Safety Authority expressed concern in a report released in May 2019 that crew shortages and overtasking had contributed to the accident in August 2017. This involved an RAF C-130J being written off after a heavy landing in Syria forced it to make an emergency recovery to an airfield in Iraq. The investigators recommended increasing the number of crews to 28 to make the Hercules fleet sustainable.
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