A C-130J detachment from RAF Brize Norton is currently based in the Middle East to carry out vital supply runs in support British operations, say the RAF here.

The Royal Air Force say that on average the detachment moves over 200 troops into theatre and up to 40 tonnes of freight in support of the mission each month. The freight ranges from critical aircraft and vehicle spares to COVID-19 Vaccines and real-life support kit for the deployed forces.

“The RAF Hercules detachment, consisting of aircraft and personnel from both 47 and 24 Squadrons, together with individual augmentees, are deployed to provide a tactical air transport capability that provides air mobility in challenging and austere conditions.”

Squadron Leader Fairley, C-130J Detachment Commander, was quoted as saying:

“The C-130J has provided the backbone to the RAF’s tactical airlift capability in the Middle East since the start of Operation Shader in 2014. We routinely operate under the cover of darkness to deliver critical support across both to Operation Shader and Operation Kipion enabling operations to continue in the ongoing fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.”

You can read more on this from the source here.

Describing the role of the aircraft, the Royal Air Force website states:

“The Hercules is the RAF’s primary tactical transport aircraft and in its current C.Mk 4 and C.Mk 5 versions of the C-130J-30 and C-130J, respectively, has been the backbone of UK operational tactical mobility tasks since it was brought into service in 1999. It is frequently employed to operate into countries or regions where there is a threat to aircraft; its performance, tactics and defensive systems make it the ideal platform for such tasks.”

The RAF are set to lose its entire fleet of C-130 Hercules aircraft by 2023.

The Defence Command Paper released earlier in the year, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, states:

“The Royal Air Force will retire the BAe146 as planned by 2022 and take the C130 Hercules out of service by 2023. The A400M Atlas force will increase its capacity and capability, operating alongside C 17 Globemaster and Voyager transport aircraft and tankers.”

C-130 Hercules fleet to be retired

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Mark F
Mark F
3 months ago

I personally don’t think the debate about withdrawing the C130J early is over yet.

Blue Fuzz
Blue Fuzz
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

I hope you’re right Mark. The (current) plan to withdraw them from service is bonkers.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Blue Fuzz

Agree. Worst cut of ISDR for me, by far.

geoff
geoff
3 months ago

Morning Daniele-indeed and the Parachute Regiment in particular are most unhappy about this decision. Also the fact that the Lutwaffe are in the process of acquiring new build Hercules speaks volumes!
Here is a quick thought for the day-we talk of for example, HER Majestys Ships when a Queen sits on the throne so why do we not say The United Queendom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? 😉 Semi serious question 😀 

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  geoff

Morning geoff.

Google answers this!

geoff
geoff
3 months ago

Thanks Daniele-will check it out. I followed the St Helena airport saga from day 1 including a clip of an RAF Hercules from Ascension landing there. It came to a slow taxi in less than half the length of the concrete! I wonder if the Airbus can do the same? Great respect for the Hercules!
24 degrees and partly cloudy here but chilly evenings and early morning 12 degrees !!! Freezing our butts off-it’s all relative 😀
Cheers my friend.

andy a
andy a
3 months ago

Not my arena but out of interest why? surely the A400 is more capable, newer? what is it that the A400 is incapable of doing?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  andy a

For me, numbers of aircraft available. The UKSF mission has required 14 Hercules retained to enable how many available for that gold plated priority task? 7, 8 aircraft daily? Now that goes on 22 Atlas. Along with everything else. DSF had long been rumoured to be fans of the Hercs for their particular role. The Atlas is a supremely capable aircraft. I’m not knocking it, I wouldn’t dare, we have a poster here on UKDJ who was involved with bringing it into RAF service who would be cross with me! Atlas carries more yes, flys further, but can still only… Read more »

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

Hope there is a re – think on the decision to withdraw, even if a smaller number are retained for SF use it would be a plus. Without an increase in A400 numbers it’s a short sighted decision otherwise.

I often wondered if this aircraft type could be optimised in the maritime surveillance role, an electronic optical camera, a basic sea search radar etc. helping to take some pressure from the Poseidon fleet.

DaveyB
DaveyB
3 months ago

Both the Herc and A400 do the maritime surveillance duties when deployed to the Falklands.

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
3 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Yes, I thought that. I reckon they would be a useful addition to monitoring sea lanes and maritime traffic and of course the odd buzz of a Russian naval vessel ! Anything to reduce the tasking of what is going to be a very busy Poseidon fleet.

BB85
BB85
3 months ago

If they had to upgrade them it would be cheaper long term to go down the long endurance UAV route. I think the reason we haven’t already is the government doesn’t deem the threat from Russia to be high enough to justify the expense.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 months ago
Reply to  BB85

And endurance UAV’s are in the infancy?

Best hold off for gen 2-3, when the tech is mature, rather than pile in at t=0 and have something that isn’t of long term use.

Nic
Nic
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

I don’t think that they will change the decision or bring in extra aircraft.They will just redeploy the A400 and C27 when and where needed .

Nic
Nic
3 months ago
Reply to  Nic

Sorry C17

Paul42
Paul42
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

I agree, this article is a clear example of why we can’t do with out it. The A400M is not an effective replacement for it.

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

Considering its only just over a year until it happens, I suspect it’s already too late to reverse the decision. To do so would need another capability cut and that process is not a fast one. Either that or a sudden injection of cash into the MOD budget, during a period where it’s just been lumbered with the national yacht costs and only just had an injection, so two seem unlikely

James
James
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

The yacht cost wont come out of the RAF budget will it? I doubt it would have any impact.

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  James

It will come from the MOD budget, with cuts no doubt being shared across the services to pay for it. It’s not a massive cost but it’s still unbudgeted for as part of the SDSR, so cuts will have to happen

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 months ago

How much economical life is left in them? Do they just run without costing much maintenance etc as the get on a bit. I’ve heard the raf work the fleet hard.
What happened to the rest of the fleet when they got retired?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Work the fleet hard, yes. Which happens to every asset as the tasks and commitments do not decrease with the reductions and they then get heaped on the remaining assets. So in a few decades time the A400 too are worn out. Just like the C17 will be.

Transport force along with ISTAR for me should be growth areas in numbers to spread the hours around.

DaveyB
DaveyB
3 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

The RAF in particular run them very hard. The Ks that we’re sold to Austria and Bangladesh had cracked main wing spars. The MoD decided rather than fixing them to retire them and sell them on. Marshall’s of Cambridge got the contract to replace the main spars and the refurbished. These aircraft will be flying for another 15 to 20 years. The difference is neither of these countries will be working them hard, i.e. flying them low level and doing tactical landings. The main wing spars are the main problem, but every bit of primary structure has been under a… Read more »

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I once had one fly over me on the A9 at what felt like 100 feet above. Swiftly followed by another, nice buzz sound lol

Pete
Pete
3 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Hey Davy. Small point….I can assure you the Bangladeshi airforce will work them hard. Used to sit in an office in Dhaka that overlooked main runway of an airforce base (Tejgeon) in the city . The Herc’s were frequently rehearsing very short take off’s and short landings ahead of their next UN deployment to somewhere in Africa which were huge money earners for the Bangladeshi govt. Used to come in so steeply. Internally as well during the flood season they were worked hard landing on slithers of higher ground doing local relief work. Used to be fun watching their Mig… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
3 months ago
Reply to  Pete

If they are the exRAF K models, doing these types of maneuvers will shorten their effective lifespan. Although I suspect they won’t be putting them through the same maintenance cycles that the RAF do. I remember coming in to Split airport in a VC10. The crew thought it would be a good idea to do a tactical landing, the plane disagreed. Most of the overhead lockers were shaken open and everything spilled out. Then when the crew slammed the jet on the ground and pushed the engines to max reverse thrust. One of the engine mountings snapped. The ground crew… Read more »

Pete
Pete
3 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Looking at the dates of the K sales Davey it wouldn’t have been them that I saw. …. it would have been B models acquired surplus from USAF much earlier. Probably treating the K’s the same way though….and still safer than driving in Bangladesh !!!

julian1
julian1
3 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

I remember the fuselage stacked up in afield outside Stafford somewhere. You went past them on the train, most odd

Jamie
Jamie
3 months ago

How close is the A400 in taking over from C-130J in support of UKSF, Is the aircraft qualified to do everything C-130J currently does?

Expat
Expat
3 months ago
Reply to  Jamie

The UK a long with European partners spent big on the A400. To recover the investment the A400.has to sell. Its not going to do that if the designers and builder nations buy and fly competing airframes.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago

Maybe the RAF are talking up how useful and busy the Hercules fleet is as a last ditched effort to save them. Even if Atlas will shortly be signed off for SF work a smaller transport fleet inevitably leads to what’s left being worked harder with all of the associated maintenance costs and time spent out of action. Hercules has always been valued for it’s ability to fly low and relatively quietly into rough/short airstrips. Will Atlas be as effective? I guess the problem is cutting the fleet down from 14 to 6 or 8 just for SF duties won’t… Read more »

Warren
Warren
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

I believe from a previous article on ukdj that they will need a costly central box section renewal, which is the driving force behind it, my personal opinion is that we should but some new versions if it is such an issue they provide an unrivaled capability

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  Warren

So it’s probably driven more by a desire to avoid the bill for an upgrade than it is about saving on running costs. I think it’s a dual problem of 1. being left with far fewer air-frames worked much harder and 2. having such a big and complex aircraft as Atlas taking on the sort of jobs Hercules is currently used for. The issue of numbers could be solved by buying second hand some of the Atlas the Germans and Spanish seem to want to get rid of but that would still result in us essentially using a sledgehammer to… Read more »

Expat
Expat
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

But doesn’t keeping the C130s around keep costs high for the A400. Firstly it shows less confidence in the A400 results in fewer sales globally more aircraft operating will reduce costs. Your probably having to fly A400 just to keep hours up for flight crew. And if your maintenance is at lower frequency the spares orders are slower leading to lower volumes which pushes up costs. Not to mention duplicate costs for parts equipment storage, training facilities for 2 aircraft types.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  Expat

Possibly true. A few more Atlas would mitigate some of the issues in losing Hercules but I still think the RAF ending up with an all large/complex transport fleet is a bit of an issue.

The 4 BAE 146 are also likely to only be replaced by 1 or maybe 2 leased Bombardier business jets which is another loss.

James Fennell
James Fennell
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

There is an upgrade for paradrop from sidedoors that needs to be implemented to qualify the Atlas. The French have already done so. I guess RAF has not yet.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

Your question may have been rhetorical but the A400M seems to be adopting advanced capabilities for tactical ops. “The A400M also achieved a new decisive milestone after the certification flights of its Automatic Low Level Flight capability for Instrumental Meteorological Conditions (IMC). Using navigation systems and terrain databases, without the need of a terrain-following radar, this is a first for a military transport aircraft. This makes the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats while conducting operations in hostile environments.” Scroll down to New Capabilities in link below. Its taken time but A400M is getting to… Read more »

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 months ago

Have to say if the RAF were to reverse a decision from the integrated review it would be the Tranche 1 Typhoons not the C130J’s. But it’s the RAF’s decision as to what they spend their share of the budget on and frankly that’s how it should be.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

The chief of the air staff clarified shortly after the review that the RAF have only been using the tranche 1’s for aggressor training rather than front-line duties for some time and they should be able to maintain 7 squadrons with the remaining 107 going forwards.

Whether that means making each squadron smaller or having a much smaller number in reserve for attrition and to rotate as part of the maintenance cycle and to preserve air-frame hours remains to be seen.

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

Didn’t know that. That means they’ll be using newer Typhoons for aggressor training. Therefore fewer available for frontline sqds. So must mean smaller sqds.

Challenger
Challenger
3 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Guess so, unless they move away from using Typhoons in the aggressor role altogether. It has after all only been a thing in the last 4-5 years.

Depends too on what happens with the Hawk T1 replacement which like a lot of smaller, less prestigious requirements seems to be completely up in the air with a bit of vague talk about using a private contractor.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
3 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

The RAF might be looking to increase use of commercial aggressor fleets for training, rather than maintain their own fleets for this specific role.

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 months ago

I wonder why they were using Typhoons even tranche 1’s. We’re not exactly flush with frontline strike aircraft. I guess they know what they’re doing !

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
3 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Just a guess but maybe a bridge role for pilots before we get the ramp in F-35B from around 21 today to 48 by 2024/5.

Steve M
Steve M
3 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

I think they should give Tranche 1 Typhoons to the Red Arrows 🙂 the sound of 9 Typhoons would be mind blowing (the Red Arrows always used to have Secondary role as air defence support for the Tornado F3’s

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve M

That sounds like a good plan.