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New Zealand retires first of 5 C-130H Hercules work horses

NZ7003 flies over Devonport Naval Base in Auckland. PHOTO: NZDF Photographer Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force has begun retiring its C-130H Hercules aircraft after more than 60 years of service.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force has begun retiring its C-130H Hercules aircraft after more than 60 years of service.

The first of five turboprop military transport aircraft set to retire, NZ7003, made its final flight from RNZAF Base Auckland over Devonport Naval Base and on to its final resting ground at Base Woodbourne on 9 February.

The aircraft, operated by No. 40 Squadron, was one of three C-130H Hercules (NZ7001 to NZ7003) which arrived in New Zealand in 1965, with the remaining pair (NZ7004 and NZ7005) arriving in 1969.

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The C-130H aircraft has a range of more than 4,100 kilometres with payload of 12,700 kilograms, and crew of two pilots, one air warfare officer, one flight engineer, and two loadmasters. The aircraft is used by a multitude of countries internationally as a troop, cargo, and medevac transport with the ability to use dirt runways for take-offs and landings.

A RNZAF spokesperson said the RNZAF aircraft had flown operations internationally from Middle East to Antarctica, and all the places in between.

“The aircraft has provided strategic airlift (inter-theatre) and tactical airlift (intra-theatre) as well as participating in numerous international operations and exercises,” the spokesperson said on 10 February.

“It has been involved in countless humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions to our Pacific neighbours delivering much-needed aid following natural disasters, transporting vital military equipment and aid to multiple countries, most recently Ukraine, and hundreds of flights to the Antarctic carrying scientists and equipment for essential research to the frozen continent.

“The aircraft received a number of modifications and upgrades with the most recent being a Life Extension Program (LEP) that started in 2005. This involved an extensive avionics upgrade of the flight deck and structural refurbishment.”

The fleet of five C-130H aircraft will be replaced by five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules to be delivered from 2024, according to a NZ government announcement made on 5 June 2020.

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