Analysis: UK air mobility faces balancing act with retirement of C-130J fleet

With the removal next year of the UK’s C-130J fleet from service and the importance of military transport highlighted by the 2021 Kabul airlift, the Royal Air Force faces challenges to maintain current operational tempo.

Atop-level report has revealed that the UK’s military mobility could “have to do more with less” as tactical and strategic platforms are gradually retired over the next two decades. The report, published last October by the RAND think tank, had been commissioned by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre at the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The C-17 (left), C-130J (centre), and A400M (right) form the backbone of the UK’s fixed-wing military transport capability. But with the C-130J leaving service next year, how will the remainder fare?
All pictures UK MOD/Crown copyright

Earlier, in March, the Defence Command Paper – released as part of the wider Integrated Review into defence and foreign policy – had confirmed that the retirement of the Royal Air Force’s 14-strong fleet of C-130J Hercules tactical transport aircraft would be moved forward to 2023.

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