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RAF confident of complete capability transition to A400M by 2025

The A400M (pictured) is set to becomes the RAF's sole fixed-wing medium-lift transport aircraft when the C-130J is retired in the coming weeks. The service says it will have transitioned all of the capabilities, including the niche special forces duties, over to the aircraft by 2025. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is confident that it can fully transition the niche special operations forces (SOF) capabilities of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules to the Airbus A400M Atlas airlifter in the next couple of years, the new service chief said on 17 May.

Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Designate Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton told the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) that the A400M can already perform most of the SOF tasks now undertaken by the soon-to-be-retired C-130J, and that this process will be complete by 2025.

“There will be a gap from when the Hercules goes out of service [in 2023] to when the A400M picks up all the C-130's work [in 2025]. The issues where the gap is are around the kinds of things that we can airdrop from the aircraft,” ACM Knighton said at the HCDC hearing, which was titled ‘Are air force gaps leaving UK exposed?'. “I spoke to [the] director of special forces [in mid-May], specifically about his views on the A400M, and he was clear … it can [already] do the majority of the [SOF] tasks.”

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