RAAF replacing Hercules and Spartan fleets

Defence today announced it intends to replace its current fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules air mobility aircraft with an expanded fleet of C-130J – under a project that is widely believed to also include ditching the C-27J Spartan.

COMPOSITE PHOTO: A C-27J Spartan pulls a small-plane manoeuvre at Avalon Airshow and a RAAF C-130 Hercules on the ground at Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. Photos by Brian Hartigan.

Defence’s statement today said Defence is replacing and expanding its current medium air mobility fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules aircraft via Project AIR 7404 Phase 1.

CONTACT notes that aside from today’s announcement, there are no other search-findable references to “Project AIR 7404” on the Defence web site.

Today’s statement went on to say that the C-130J Hercules variant was a reliable and combat-proven aircraft operated by the Royal Australian Air Force since 1999.

   

“Defence has approached a number of aircraft manufacturers and received information on all available medium air mobility options.

“The relative merits of each aircraft type have been assessed against Australia’s capability requirements.

“Defence seeks a low risk, certified in all roles, proven, mature and affordable replacement aircraft that meets Australia’s air mobility needs.

“Project principles have incorporated lessons learned from previous major Defence acquisitions as well as the in-service experience with the current C‑130J fleet.

“Defence has identified that the new C-130J aircraft represents the only option that meets all of Australia’s capability requirements and assures Defence’s medium air-mobility capability without introducing substantial cost, schedule and capability risk.

“As a result, new C-130J aircraft will be the only option that Defence will progress for government approval under Project AIR 7404 Phase 1 in 2023.”

While Defence’s statement today did not specify the size of RAAF’s C-130J fleet expansion, other media are reporting that the fleet will grow from the current 12 Hercules and 10 Spartans to possibly 30 Hercules – and that six to eight of those will come in the KC-130J air-to-air refuelling configuration.

While the prospect of new Hercs on the ground in Australia is some way off, it is also believed that this project has actually been fast-tracked.

Australian government approval next year will then require US government foreign-military-sales approval (which shouldn’t be a problem), with the first aircraft likely to arrive 2030 – by which time, our current C-130Js will be about 30 years old.

While 30 years isn’t particularly old for a Hercules, Australia was one of the first customers for the then-new J-model aircraft, and there has been a lot of improvement in cargo-handling, navigation and other systems over the years.

Australia’s current Hercules fleet has also worked harder than previous fleets, with an almost continuous two-ship presence in the Middle East from 2008 to 2020.

Before the current fleet, the Royal Australian Air Force has operated C-130A, E and H models, beginning in 1958 and operated 24 Hercs from the mid 1960s until 2006 when one of the air-mobility squadrons upgraded to C-17s.

This project is estimated to cost somewhere between $9- and $14-billion.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeez I feel old now. I remember like it was yesterday getting a ride on a J-model Herc at the Avalon Airshow, just before RAAF signed the purchase order!


 
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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

39 thoughts on “RAAF replacing Hercules and Spartan fleets

  • 01/11/2022 at 11:22 pm
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    Pity they did not scoop up the last few C17…

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  • 01/11/2022 at 9:08 pm
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    This decision to change aircraft was made last year some time. Getting rid of the Spartans has been on the cards for a while for various reasons, so I am told.
    Nothing to do with current govt.
    Changes are already happening at AMB, the spartan head has been removed from the side of the hangar and some contractor work shirts have been redone to replace the spartan head with the 35sqn wallaby on the sleeve.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 11:39 pm
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      It seems this decision has been in the works for a couple of years now yet it still troubles me that it doesn’t fit snuggly with our concept of operations.

      Light to mid air cargo airframes should complement each other with that the spartan has a good business case, especially when teamed with Chinook and Hercules. Looking back the Caribou was a real tough work platform that could fly with holes all over it and in a nose wind float like a kite great for SAR. IT could be armed by opening all the doors and firing your SLRs out of them. For Australia any decision to buy ospreys would be a massive cluster fuck as they Crash ALOT and kill alot of people are difficult to fly and need constant maintenance.

      On the C130J there are 2(two) major variations we desperately need the
      1st is to convert a couple of C130j’s into FULL AC130j GUNSHIPS (SPOOKYS) to provide long duration oversight missions for close air support and coordination.
      2nd at least 6 (six) of the older Hercs refitted as Bush Fire tankers/Water Bombers. This is one of the most critical needs right now.
      3rd Tap into the Aussie Bush Mechanic and convert all our old tanks and armored transport vehicles into fireproof deep insertion fire fighters, multi role MUST BE TOP PRIORITY FOR EVERYTHING.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 6:09 pm
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    If the RAAF wants to start expanding the C130 fleet before these new J’s arrive at the end of the decade, they should look at acquiring some of the C130J’s that the RAF are prematurely disposing. Getting 6-8 of these would allow the ramping up of crews & maintenance personnel before the new aircraft arrive.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 5:13 pm
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    I Don’t understand the logic either .?
    It seems anything European is being dumped in favour of American made !
    Why is it good enough for the European and not for us.?
    Smells of lobbies.
    Examples tipans, tigers helicopters ,French Subs .
    Look Hercules are a great medium lift aircraft ,but it’s not always large that counts!
    Small and nimble practical and economic for mountainous areas are important too.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 5:26 pm
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      No good for our climate. Not built by one country. Not weapons compatable eg Tiger. Spares availability very average and maintenance intensive.
      America is our Ally and all spares available 2days ex USA……

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      • 01/11/2022 at 5:51 pm
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        Can’t argue with those sensible points .!
        But I still think there is a need for an aircraft the size of the Spartans for s all payloads .
        Your right about a lot but Hercules are still too large to do things say in new Guinea.

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        • 01/11/2022 at 9:54 pm
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          My understanding is that the spartans cannot operate in contested environment without escort ( no offense decoy or offensive weapons available. I did hear that osprey were under consideration to replace spartan by the adf too.

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          • 01/11/2022 at 9:59 pm
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            Sorry typo correction: no offensive, decoy or defensive weapons available for fitment)

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            • 01/11/2022 at 10:06 pm
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              The raaf is also exercising hawk lead in fighters as escorts for opspreys (opsprey fitted with mini guns /decoys speed advantage)
              In addition, ran cross decking our canberras with opspreys. I dont know how our flat tops deck take the temp from the ospreys tho ! Snap shot of where adf is heading i guess.

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              • 02/11/2022 at 2:39 pm
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                I would like to see a detailed analysis of all platforms including Blackhawk, Tiger and Superseasprite etc to see what we got for our hard paid tax dollars. What real cost per vehicle, how many hours flight time per million dollars spent etc as I have done some back of the box calls and it is horrifying. We could have contracted Toll or Llyods to get a better result.

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          • 01/11/2022 at 10:20 pm
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            It was announced this week the government will replace the legacy communication equipment. This legacy equipment was based on the US JCA program. Originally the US government were going to acquire up to 150 C-27JS, but due to budgets and some political reasons, only 21 were required. I believe that is the issue why there is issues where the Spartan have had issues with their protection/communication equipment they used the same protection equipment as the US Spartans.. If they acquired the C-27J directly from the manufacturer using standard NATO, these issues would not have arisen. Since they acquired the Spartan, the aircraft are doing many other duties like fisheries patrols for south Pacific islander countries for example and has proved itself as a light tactical transport aircraft. Once the new equipment is installed, then the aircraft will be more than able to fulfill its battlefield duties. Btw the Osprey is far more expensive to buy and maintain. It has a smaller cargo area than the Spartan and take less of the load. Due to cost and the complexity of the aircraft, only a tiny few have been exported, only to Japan whom have acquired 5 aircraft.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 6:10 pm
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      Logistics… European OEMs are not providing the logistics to CASG/Service HQ expectations.

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      • 01/11/2022 at 11:10 pm
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        The ADF has redefined the role of the spartans to HADR role. Any reference to battle field airlift has been removed from role. Now defined as tactical airlift. The platform may be retained in HADR and pacific fisheries and constabulary role. Pretty much fulfilling in this role since entering service.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 7:04 pm
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      The European trash are a headache to maintain. For example the Canberra class LHD have parts that don’t have NATO Stock Numbers so aren’t easy to replace. American kit has parts available. As for the C27 the yanks have dumped them as well so something is not quite right with that aircraft.

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      • 01/11/2022 at 10:03 pm
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        No the US have not dumped the C-27Js at all. The USCG use 14 and have been a great asset and 7 are used by the US army .

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    • 02/11/2022 at 5:19 pm
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      It isn’t. Danes have dumped the NRH-90s. Germany is unhappy with the Eurocopter and NRH-90s. US equipment is both more reliable and have better spares service.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 4:39 pm
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    UK Financial Times in March 2021 announced the departure of all Hercs from RAF, to be all gone in 2023.
    “Jeez I feel old now. I remember like it was yesterday getting a ride on a J-model…”
    You reckon? During my posting to AMTDU at Richmond RAAF in 1974, we were doing air drops from what I believe was a D (or maybe E) model. I recall (through the daily-increasing fog of age) that you could tell the newer models because the wing tank was between the engines rather than outside them although I’m having trouble getting photos or descriptions online.
    One source indicates that the the USAAF introduced in August of 1962, the 389 C-130Es…” so I may be wrong.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 7:01 pm
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      I flew with 37Sqn in 1974, the Squadron had C130E aircraft used for Strategic transport. The C130A model was still at 36Sqn although struggling to maintain serviceability of the old design. They were the only Squadron performing airdrops, although we did do SAR work training to drop Lindholme rafts and survival kits as part of the Australian SAR responsibility. The Herc was a great aircraft but limited with where it could go in New Guinea. The Caribou performed amazing work there and considering the now very Strategic considerations of operating there and the SW Pacific generally, I would have thought it was essential to have a Spartan size aircraft. I have no idea why the Spartan has not performed well for the RAAF but I note now the RAAF is refitting the fleets avionics and communication systems.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 9:27 pm
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      Rosco, I was around in that time period 🦖, if I had to guess I would go for the “E” model.
      If memory serves correctly we started with the A model and proceeded to the E models.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 3:34 pm
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    2030 delivery, it’s gonna be over by then!

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    • 01/11/2022 at 5:57 pm
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      After the war if we aren’t speaking another language we will have some great frigates, transports and maybe subs for ww4 😂

      Reply
  • 01/11/2022 at 3:25 pm
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    Could be fun watching the new J’ landing on some of the airsrips in PNG next time there’s a famine.

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    • 02/11/2022 at 5:20 pm
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      No, the C-27s will continue doing so.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 2:27 pm
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    The RAAF seem to have thier shit in one sock. I remember jumping out of the H model in the late 80’s whilst in 3RAR.
    I see the RAAF now will allow beards to be grown to spec in under 3 months. No medical chit required and Army retirement age pushed out to 63 under the bullshit believe it will aid retention in experience. Yep as a arse shinet it might but not in the bayonet thruster department, they have a lot of work there I am afraid

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  • 01/11/2022 at 1:44 pm
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    It’s so wonderful to read an article like this and not be distracted by the constantly moving/rotating advertising material on the side of the article. Imagine if your book had a visually distracting ad that moved! You’d never get through the book! Stop to moving ads, it’s distracting!

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  • 01/11/2022 at 1:39 pm
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    We’ve only just got the Spartans as the long overdue replacement for the Caribous. The idea was they would be a battlefield air lifter with STOL capability and a high degree of compatibility with the 130 making it easy for pilots to transition from one platform to another. I’ve never heard of any issues with them. Has anybody got any ideas on why defence would ditch them this early in the lifecycle?

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    • 01/11/2022 at 5:30 pm
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      They were second hand and cheap because countries that had them parked them up. Spares and maint intensive main issues.

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      • 01/11/2022 at 10:30 pm
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        The C-27Js were not second hand, but new built. No country has “parked up” their C-27Js.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 6:13 pm
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      C-27J was never pitched as a STOL replacement for the Caribou.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 1:08 pm
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    Hopefully the new aircraft will be used to fly those ISIS terrorists back to where they came from. Put that dropkick of a PM with M/s Penny WANG and boofhead BOWEN on too. What a parade of clowns.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 3:00 pm
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      Yes you are so right, the government has lost there minds next election I don’t know how they got elected, they have screwed up very bad

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  • 01/11/2022 at 1:07 pm
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    Again, just more wasted tax payers dollars. What next are these inept morons going to do, also agree with the above comments.

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    • 01/11/2022 at 4:24 pm
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      Note to the Editor: I feel old too, having been on the team that ran the 1999 Avalon Airshow and being part of the group that set up the demo of the C-130J-30, I still think of the “J” as a newish aircraft in our fleet. The Spartans have their place, and are cheap to operate, but the only real replacement for a Caribou is a Chinook.

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      • 02/11/2022 at 5:21 pm
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        Or V-22 Osprey! Or CH-46K.

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  • 01/11/2022 at 12:54 pm
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    Let me guess its a Labor regressionist pro-China government so they’re going to bring the Caribou’s out of mothballs costing tens of billions of dollars before retiring them again and re-buying the Spartans?

    Reply

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