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RAF retires Hercules after 56 years

One of the three Hercules that took part in the type's farewell flypast manoeuvres through the Welsh valleys as the trio made their way around the UK. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has retired the last of its Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, marking the end of 56 years of operational service with a UK-wide flypast on 14 June.

With the official retirement parade having taken place at the type's home station at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on 9 June, three of the last 14 C-130J-30 C4 variant Hercules aircraft still in service flew over England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to draw the curtain on an operational life that spanned more than five decades. The Hercules's final public appearance will be at the King Charles III's birthday flypast on 17 June.

The Hercules first entered RAF service in the UK-specific C-130K configuration in October 1966, and was supposed to fly in its latest C-130J/C-130J-30 standard through to 2035. However, the Defence Command Paper released in March 2021 brought the retirement date forward to 2023 for budgetary reasons.

With the earlier retired C-130J C5 aircraft having been acquired by Bahrain, Bangladesh, and the United States, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently disclosed that international interest in the C-130J-30 C4s had been received from 15 different countries, including 11 NATO members.

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