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RAAF marks 800,000 Hercules flying hours

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 15, 2014
Two of the three C-130Js over Sydney Harbour last week. (Defence)
Two of the three C-130Js over Sydney Harbour last week. (Defence)

The RAAF has marked 800,000 flying hours by its Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules fleet over five decades with a formation flight by three 37SQN C-130J aircraft over Sydney Harbour on Wednesday.

“Behind this milestone is the contribution of many talented men and women who have made these 800,000 flying hours possible,” Commander of Air Mobility Group Air Commodore Warren McDonald, said.

 “Several generations of Australians have contributed to this achievement, regardless of which Hercules they worked on.”

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The RAAF has operated a total of 48 C-130s in four different variants (C-130A, E, H and J) since 1958. Today 12 C-130J-30 Hercules are operated by 37SQN from RAAF Base Richmond, the home of all Australian Hercules operations since the type’s first delivery to the RAAF. The C-130Js entered service from 1999 and have since flown over 100,000 flying hours in RAAF markings.

Over the decades RAAF C-130s have supported ADF operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and Vietnam, and humanitarian disaster relief missions in Pakistan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific, as well as throughout Australia.

“For 56 years, they have flown people and cargo to where they’re needed, often under tough conditions, and proven a welcome sight for many,” AIRCDRE McDonald said.

The Hercules looks to be a common sight in Australian skies for some time to come, with a planned withdrawal date for the RAAF’s C-130J fleet of 2030.

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The three-ship C-130J formation over RAAF Base Richmond. (Defence)
The three-ship C-130J formation over RAAF Base Richmond. (Defence)

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8 Comments

  • Michael

    says:

    I wonder if they’ll reach 1 million flying hours by 2030? By then they will likely be replaced by the A400M.

  • Darren

    says:

    Michael I wonder if the A400 will still be available by then. They are not really selling well at the moment and production might not make 15 years years down the track. As it stands some aircraft ordered are being offered for sale after delivery to those nations, which must surely impact on sales off the production run. It could be irony that the Herc again is replaced by a Herc.

  • Glen

    says:

    I am thinking that the C130 may well be replaced by a new version of the C130 when these run out of flying hours.Well done the RAAF on a huge milestone

  • Michael

    says:

    Darren A400m production is at the moment looking bleak once orders for its European launch customers are fulfilled. But I think those 26 airframes that Spain and Germany are going to sell off will get snapped up.

    Consider also that C-17 production is ending soon. There are countries out there who will be looking for an aircraft that is a step up in capability from the C-130 and/or quiet a few who simply need to replace existing C-130s. The big question will be how much demand for the A400m will there be and how low can Airbus go with production rates

    In the RAAF’s case the C-17s will become more maintenance heavy and probably require more and more frequent downtime. The current A400m can carry approximately 50% of the payload and 2/3 cargo volume of the C-17 compared to about 25% and ???/a lot less for the C-130-J. By next decade they will probably be able to increase the payload to a much greater number. The A400m would be a great replacement for the C-130 as well as a great supplement for the C-17’s lower end tasks.

  • Kevin

    says:

    was lucky enough to fly in Hercs as an apprentice in the 60’s, great experience, great aircraft

  • John N

    says:

    800,000 hours and counting! A pretty amazing achievement and without the loss of a single airframe over all those 56 years too!

    If I remember correctly, Australia was the very first ‘export’ customer for the Herc, when the A’s started arriving in late 1958. And hopefully the J’s have another 15 years of high quality service ahead of them too.

    The interesting question in the years ahead will be, what will replace the J’s in RAAF service?

    Certainly the A400M would likely be a contender (if still in production?), but I think we will all have to wait and see what the USAF’s future requirements will be when it comes time to replace the J’s.

    Will they just want an ‘update’ of the existing airframe or will they write a requirement for a ‘larger’ aircraft? That’s going to be the question.

    If the requirement is for an airframe along the lines of the A400M, then I’m sure that LM and Boeing will come up with some new designs and I wouldn’t mind betting that Airbus might try and partner with NG again, but after disaster that was the KC-X fiasco, maybe Airbus might be better partnering with LM or Boeing if it has any chance of seeing the A400M in US (or RAAF) colours.

    Interesting times ahead!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    Very interesting point you mention John – not a single airframe lost over all those years. Amazing.

    As for the eventual C-130J replacement in RAAF service, I can’t for a moment imagine that LM will not want to continue such a successful line as the Hercules and cede the market to their competitors. I think a new Hercules model, or an updated J at the very least, will be in the works. The A400M isn’t in the box seat by any margin; four generations and nearly six decades of valuable and continuous service will see any new Hercules a formidable contender.

  • John N

    says:

    Raymond,

    I’m not suggesting for one minute that the Hercules is at end, not at all.

    But I think a lot will depend greatly on what an eventual USAF requirement will look like, will it be more of the ‘same’?, eg the same basic requirement that the C-130 fulfils, or will it be for a whole new and ‘enlarged’ design? Something more along the lines of an A400M perhaps.

    And I’m sure that both LM and Boeing will come up with designs to meet whatever that requirement eventually looks like.

    I’m sure too that LM will want to continue the Hercules and I’m sure there will continue to be a strong export market for it, but as I said, what will replace the current J’s in USAF (and possibly RAAF) service is probably still an open question.

    Cheers,

    John N

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