Another RAF-operated Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules C4 tactical transport has arrived at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group’s (MADG) facility at Cambridge Airport in Cambridgeshire for disposal, leaving just a handful of airframes in UK military service.
The aircraft (serial ZH866) arrived at the MADG facility on March 20 after completing its final flight in RAF service. Having been initially delivered to the former RAF Lyneham (now MOD Lyneham), Wiltshire, in December 1999, this C-130J-30 was one of three airframes that started being built as a legacy C-130H transport, before it was subsequently converted and handed over as a C-130J-standard aircraft.
Formerly operated by the RAF’s No 206 Squadron and managed by QinetiQ, this aircraft had earlier been flown to the MADG facility at Cambridge Airport on January 15, 2016, where it received special tail art to celebrate the 100th anniversary of No 206 Squadron. The aircraft returned to the facility on March 22, 2019, and its special markings were removed before it re-entered operational RAF service on November 30, 2020.
This latest withdrawal leaves just seven operational C-130Js in UK military service, with the entire Hercules C4/C5 fleet set to be axed on June 30, 2023. All C-130Js are being flown to Cambridge Airport upon their retirement, where the tactical transports are being decommissioned and prepared for potential sale to prospective second-hand customers on the export market by the MADG. The UK Ministry of Defence has already started taking steps to prepare for future sales of surplus C-130Js and relevant equipment, such as flight simulators, support equipment and specialised spares/repair parts to potential buyers.
In total, the RAF received 15 ‘stretched’ C-130J-30 Hercules C4s and ten ‘regular’ C-130J Hercules C5s, with the former entering service in August 1998 and the latter joining the air arm’s ranks from September 2000. The MOD has already sold a number of already retired RAF C-130Js to second-hand customers. Four Hercules C5s were sold to Bahrain and Bangladesh in August 2017. Of these, two examples were delivered to the Royal Bahraini Air Force in November 2018 and April 2020, with two aircraft being delivered to the Bangladesh Air Force in August 2019 and May 2020. Bangladesh ordered three more examples in June 2019, with these aircraft currently stored with MADG at its Cambridge Airport facility.
In June 2019, the US Navy procured a single Hercules C5 for use as the new ‘Fat Albert’ support aircraft for its Blue Angels aerobatic team. This aircraft was first seen conducting pre-delivery test flights in April 2020 and was delivered to the US Navy in August, that year. None of the ‘stretched’ C-130J-30 Hercules C4s have been sold to second-hand customers to date.