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After the first C-130J Super Hercules intended for the Air Force with the serial number 5930 was fully assembled in July, the aircraft recently rolled out of the production halls of the manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the Air Force gray livery with the identification 55 + 01. Now the last ground tests are due before the machine has to prove its functionality in flight.

The 5930 is the first of six C-130J transport aircraft that the Bundeswehr ordered from Lockheed Martin in 2018 via Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The first German C-130J is to be delivered to the Bundeswehr by early 2022 at the latest and transferred to Evreux in France. All six German Super Hercules are to be taken over by the troops by the end of 2023. The Franco-German plan provides for full operational capability to be achieved in 2024.

C-130J in the Bundeswehr

In Germany, the aircraft procurement project was also referred to as “small area”. This is to reduce a capability gap that has arisen due to the retirement of the C-160. Although the Air Force now has extensive air transport capabilities with the A400M, it has been apparent for some time that there would be a capability gap, especially in protected tactical air transport when using airfields with little infrastructure and unpaved runways, as well as in the field of air refueling of helicopters. In addition, an aircraft was needed to support special forces.

Erste C-130J in der Lackierung der Luftwaffe
The first C-130J in the livery of the Air Force, Photo: Lockheed Martin

To close this capability gap, Germany and France are cooperating in tactical air transport. On February 15, 2017, a letter of intent to set up a joint air transport squadron with the aircraft type C-130J Hercules was signed in Evreux between the Federal Ministry of Defense and its French counterpart.

France has already received four Super Hercules through a so-called Foreign Military Sale (FMS) with the US government. On January 15, 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the first C-130J machine to France. In May 2018, the US State Department approved the sale of six C-130 tactical transport aircraft to the Air Force.

Erste C-130J in der Lackierung der Luftwaffe
Erste C-130J in der Lackierung der Luftwaffe

The aircraft are to be used together with four machines of the same type from the French Armée de l'Air & de l'Espace from the Evreux base. The German and French air forces are currently building a joint unit for operations and training there. The first staff has already started work and France has started to relocate the four machines that have been delivered to Evreux.

Half of the ten machines are designed as tankers and are designated KC-130J. With the C-130J aircraft, the Bundeswehr's ability to perform tactical transport tasks on short runways is to be closed.

Both countries want to use the fleet together, France has ordered two C-130J-30 and two KC-130J (tanker variant), Germany three each. The range of the J is around 3,300 kilometers, the aircraft can be refueled in the air if necessary.

Waldemar Geiger and Gerhard Heiming