Australia will purchase 20 new C-130J Hercules to both replace and expand its current fleet of 12.
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The new aircraft are expected to arrive from late 2027 and will continue to be operated by No. 37 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond in NSW.
It comes after the Federal Government revealed it would make the purchase in November last year, though it didn’t confirm the size of the prospective fleet.
Making the announcement, Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, hailed Lockheed Martin-built aircraft as a “reliable workhorse” in roles from humanitarian operations to conflict zones.
“Having 20 aircraft, up from 12, will mean more opportunities for local industry to sustain the aircraft, creating more Australian jobs,” he said.
“There’ll also be jobs associated with infrastructure redevelopments at RAAF Base Richmond.”
Having been manufactured for more than 60 years, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft.
In total, 48 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.
Australia obtained its initial batch in December 1958, becoming the first nation to operate the aircraft outside of the US Air Force.
The four-engine turboprop, medium-lift aircraft increased transport capability and reduced reliance on piston-driven aircraft such as the C-47.
The latest J variant was first operated in 1999 by the RAAF.
Defence Minister Richard Marles praised the C-130J Hercules as an important capability for both the ADF and Australia as a nation.
“From bushfire and flood emergencies across the country, the delivery of crucial supplies to the region during the COVID-19 pandemic and more than two decades supporting peacekeeping operations, this has and will continue to be a crucial asset,” he said.
“The Albanese Government is committed to ensuring the ADF is equipped with the capabilities it needs to keep Australians safe, and this targeted expansion of the fleet size will do just that.”
Defence previously said it made the choice to stick with the Hercules after noting the “lessons learned from previous major Defence acquisitions” – in an apparent nod to the failure of the Spartan.
Warren McDonald, CEO of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand, added the decision will add to the 65-year legacy of continuous C-130 operations in Australia.
“The C-130J has proven its ability to meet all of Australia’s medium air mobility requirements and is an excellent choice to support operations in Northern Australia, the importance of which was highlighted in the Defence Strategic Review,” he said.