France’s first KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelling aircraft was delivered to its new base at BA123 at Orléans-Bricy, where they will be operated by Escadron de Transport 2/61 ‘Franche- Comté’, on Thursday, September 19, 2019. A second KC-130J will be delivered in 2020.
The two KC-130Js will enable the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) to refuel its EC725 Caracal helicopters in flight. The versatile helicopters are used by the French Army’s Special Forces’ Détachement Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre des Opérations Spéciales (army light aviation special operations detachment).
The KC-130Js were obtained as an urgent operational requirement because the Armée de l’Air’s A400Ms were years behind in being certified for refuelling the helicopter. Despite progress in certificating the A400M for the task, final certification is not expected until 2021.
Colonel Stanislas Michel, base commander of BA123 said: “This new capacity developed with the KC-130J is important especially for tactical missions of the Air Force with the Caracal. We want to be able to implement that capacity in three months, that’s the priority.”
Crews destined for the new platform and already familiar with the non-tanker version already in service with the Armée de l’Air will complete a two-week simulator training course in Italy before being cleared for operations. Two crews have already been certified for the new aircraft and the air force plans to have seven fully trained crews before long.
The Super Hercules have been bought as part of a 2016 Franco- German deal. A bi-national training centre is to be built by 2021, at BA105 Evreux. It will include flight and cargo simulators for pilots, loadmasters and technical staff in 2021.