Netherlands accelerates C-130H fleet replacement

The Dutch Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed on October 13 that it intends to replace its ageing fleet of four Lockheed C-130H Hercules tactical transports ahead of schedule.

The decision to accelerate the replacement process comes after the MoD concluded that planned maintenance and upgrades would not improve the fleet’s overall readiness and deployability. The C-130H aircraft are operated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), with the oldest airframe in its inventory dating back to 1978. This new replacement project will be implemented between 2021 and 2028, with the first aircraft of the new fleet expected to arrive in the Netherlands in 2026.

RNLAF C-130H-30 [Khalem Chapman]
A Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)-operated Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules, serial G-273 (c/n 5273), is prepared for flight at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on July 22, 2019. This specific aircraft has been called 'Ben Swagerman' by the air arm. Khalem Chapman

In a press release, the MoD said: “Modernisation of the current fleet would reduce availability even further over the next four years. [The C-130H fleet’s] replacement is financially more beneficial and improves employability. That is why the previously-decided maintenance programme is no longer [being] carried out, and the current aircraft will be replaced immediately.”

Although no candidates to succeed the C-130H in RNLAF service were named, the MoD did outline its requirements for the new platform. It must have the ability to be employed on a global scale and in adverse conditions, along with being capable of operating from unpaved and short runways. As well as this, the desired aircraft must have the capability to transport injured people, while providing high-quality medical care in flight.

The MoD also outlined that the new aircraft needs to be capable of covering at least 2,400 flight hours per year. It adds that it “must be able to transport multiple types of equipment (including ammunition and vehicles) or a minimum of 60 paratroopers.” It also requires that the new platform has a range of at least 2,000nmi and is fitted with self-protection, communication and information systems to allow it to participate in information-led operations.

RNLAF C-130H [Khalem Chapman]
Lockheed C-130H Hercules, serial G-781 (c/n 4781) 'Bob van der Stok', on static display at the RAF Cosford Airshow, Shropshire, in June 2016. The Netherlands will host a competition to replace the RNLAF's four-strong fleet of C-130H/H-30s over the course of this decade. Khalem Chapman

In terms of costs, the Netherlands is looking to spend between €250m and €1bn on the new fleet. “So-called off-the-shelf devices are bought for this. These are existing aircraft that have already proven themselves. In the follow-up phases, it will be examined how Dutch industry can be involved,” the MoD concluded.

The Netherlands purchased two new-build examples of the stretched C-130H-30 variant in 1992 and procured two former US Navy EC-130Q aircraft in 2005. These surplus aircraft were reconfigured to C-130H standard prior to being handed over to the RNLAF. All four aircraft are operated by 336 Squadron from Eindhoven air base in the Dutch province of North Brabant.