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New Zealand to buy five Super Hercules for $1bn

written by Dylan Nicholson | June 9, 2020

An artist's impression of a C130J-30 Super Hercules in Royal New Zealand Air Force livery. (New Zealand government)
An artist’s impression of a C130J-30 Super Hercules in Royal New Zealand Air Force livery. (New Zealand government)

The New Zealand government has confirmed it’s set to buy five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules for more than NZ$1 billion.

The planes will replace the military’s existing fleet of Hercules planes, which have suffered a number of embarrassing breakdowns over the years.

Defence Minister Ron Mark said, “Last year, cabinet selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. Procurement of the Super Hercules has been my highest capability priority as Minister of Defence.

“Along with the new fleet, the $1.521 billion project will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure.”

Minister Mark said the new planes would be used for operations in New Zealand, the South Pacific and Antarctica.

“Generations of New Zealanders have grown up and grown old with the Hercules, and they know these aircraft are an essential first line of response. This decision ensures the Defence Force will have the capability it needs to meet expected future tasks,” he said.


“This fleet will ensure the Defence Force can continue to support New Zealand’s community resilience, our national security, our contribution to our Pacific neighbours and the wider global community.

“This decision ensures tactical airlift will remain available to undertake operations in New Zealand’s immediate region, as well as support our interests in Antarctica, often in support of other government agencies.”

The new aircraft offers an upgrade in capability on the old retiring Hercules aircraft.

“The new aircraft will carry a greater payload, is faster and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft,” Minister Mark continued.

“Each aircraft will also be fitted with additional specialist capabilities, including wide bandwidth, high-speed satellite communications system and an electro-optical/infra-red camera.

“This equipment will make our new Super Hercules among the most capable in the world. The satellite communications system will allow imagery, video and data to be streamed in real-time, and the camera allows for aerial surveillance, including at the same time as the aircraft is undertaking transport tasks, particularly useful on humanitarian and disaster relief operations and search and rescue missions.”

Three of the nation’s current C-130 Hercules planes date back to 1965 and the other two to 1969. They have been upgraded over the years, but frequent breakdowns have hampered some high-profile missions. At one point last year, the entire fleet was temporarily grounded.

New Zealand will take delivery of the first of the new Hercules aircraft in 2024, with the full fleet operating by 2025.

The price tag of NZ$1.5 billion includes a flight simulator and supporting infrastructure.

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Comments (16)

  • Bernard


    Confusing at the start: on one hand a series of embarrassing breakdowns then basically what a superb plane generations of kiwis grew up with! Govt would have greater credibility if it said they’re buying new planes and older ones mothballed or given lighter duties in recognition the older ones failures/inadequate-ness. Because spending $1.5 billion on planes that might have embarrassing breakdowns too doesn’t inspire confidence in govt decision making. Maybe Airbus has a better option?

    • James


      What on earth are you carrying on about??

      Where do they think these new AIRCRAFT might break down?

      Mate, any aircraft old or new breaks down. It happens.

      Why then cause the 50 year old Hercules broke down does it then suggest Airbus would offer a better product than the J?

      I just don’t get it.

    • Mick C


      The J model has been around for over 20 years now in service with the other four 5 eyes Nations, it has proven to be extremely reliable, why would the RNZAF have any issues? The Airbus A400M however has been a cluster due to ongoing issues with the choice of Engine. The RNZAF C-130H fleet is ancient and worn out and the NZG is cutting it very close on the replacement, there will be no room for manoeuvre if for any reason they are running late.

  • I guess the A400M proved to be just too expensive.

  • Craig


    “Defence Minister Ron Mark said, “Last year, cabinet selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. Procurement of the Super Hercules has been my highest capability priority as Minister of Defence.”

    Really? I’d say it should be getting fighter aircraft back. 50 F-16Vs or F-15Es would seem the obvious ‘cheap’ choices.
    There’s no F in RNZAF at present. They rely on the RAAF.

  • Marum


    As most of Australia and New Zealand’s work for the military is in disaster relief work around the South Pacific, the Super Hercs are a great buy. Their landing roll is little more than a Cessna’s, and their take off roll is damn good too. I am sure any “gung ho” military pilot, would beat both stated figures if they needed to. Pure jets, whilst they have an advantage in speed and range, are not as versatile. If I were using an unmade strip, a Herc. would be my first choice.


    The 50 year old Hercs. would be suffering more breakdowns and higher maintenance costs. Probably airframe cracking round rivet holes, struts and spars, etc. (The military uses its aircraft to the edge of the envelope, and sometimes beyond it)

    I think this is an ideal purchase for the RNZAF.


    • James


      Which Cessna?

  • AlanH


    It might look the same (tho slightly longer) but there is a world of difference between a +50-yr-old C-130H and a current model C-130J -30 Super Hercules. It’s a good decision by the Enzed Government .

  • Bernard


    couple of you are missing the point of my comments. Secondly Aust are experts at doing the same- highlighting inadequacies of equipment then forking our a fortune for update of the same or expensive rebuild then mothballing it, for example Aeromachhi; F111.

    • Gary


      Bernard – a little unsure of your comment re F111 being mothballed. Whilst the F111 were originally ‘delivered’ in 1968 they were not accepted by the RAAF until 1973. Apart from ongoing mods such as AUP and Pavetack, re winging to prolong service life and re-engining, when did they undergo an expensive rebuild and/or mothballed? If this refers to updating then this is a normal process for many platforms, C130J included.

  • HS


    Does anyone know if the new Hercs will be ski equipped for out of season work in the Antarctic? The ski option on the old VXE-6 and NY Air National Guard has been massively useful, and it would be very good if we had that function.

  • James


    The J might be an “update”, but it’s a seasoned update as it’s been proven all over the world. So it’s a known quantity, therefore the risk is far less for the things you mentioned to happen.

  • PAUL


    About time nothing better than a new car… what do you guys think would be a good 757 replacement KC76 or A330RTT?

  • peter


    The RAAF and RNZAF work together constantly and it would be logical to have same logistic aircraft.

  • Neil


    I’m not surprised a 50 year old C130 Hercules has had so-called embarrassing breakdowns. Airframes issues and fatigue problems occur over time. Then again the C130 is a robust, strong aircraft. The RAAF has had a magnificent incident free history,first the A model in the 60s,followed by the E and H models, finally serving well currently with the C130 J.
    Great decision by the Kiwis to order the Super Hercules C130J.

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