US approves New Zealand C-130J purchase

The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of five Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules to New Zealand.

Approval of the potential sale, worth $1.4bn, was announced on November 20 in a media release from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). Following this announcement, the DSCA notified the US Congress, which will ultimately decide if it goes ahead. To be employed by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the five Super Hercules will replace the air arm's ageing fleet of five Lockheed C-130H(NZ) Hercules; the oldest three have served since 1965 and the remaining two entered operational service in 1968.

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Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules 08-8602 of the USAF's 37th Airlift Squadron 'Blue Tail Flies' over RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, during the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in 2017. Khalem Chapman

The DSCA states that the deal includes five C-130J Super Hercules – the most up-to-date version of the famed C-130-family – and 24 Rolls-Royce AE-2100D3 turboprop engines (20 of which will be installed, along with four spares). The potential sale comes with a wide variety of associated equipment, including 13 AN/AAQ-24(V)N Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system processors and eight AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning Systems (MAWS), both produced by Northrop Grumman. The potential deal also includes eight BAE Systems AN/ALR-56M missile warning system receivers, six L3 Wescam MX-20HD electro-optical/infrared imaging systems and eight Multi-Information Distribution Systems (MIDS)/Link-16 Low Video Terminals (LVT)-BU2. Alongside this is a variety of defensive aids, radio and navigational systems, plus relevant spares and RNZAF personnel training.

In the media release, the DSCA stated: "This proposed sale will provide the capability to support national, United Nations, and other coalition operations. This purchase also includes sensors and performance improvements that will assist New Zealand during extensive maritime surveillance and reconnaissance as well as improve its search and rescue capability. Additionally, the extra cargo capacity and aircraft performance will greatly increase New Zealand's Antarctic mission capabilities while simultaneously increasing safety margins."

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Lockheed Martin CC-130J Hercules 13-0612 of the Royal Canadian Air Force's (RCAF's) 436th Transport Squadron taxiing to depart RAF Fairford after taking part in RIAT 2019. Khalem Chapman

The DSCA also noted that Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor for producing New Zealand's possible C-130Js, with work taking place in Fort Worth, Texas. No offset agreements have been proposed as part of the potential sale. 

If approved, when the first aircraft are delivered, New Zealand will become the 23rd nation to operationally employ the C-130J. The RNZAF announced in June that the C-130J was the "preferred" replacement for its C-130H(NZ) fleet. Embraer Defense had also offered its newly renamed C-390 Millennium, but the air arm selected the C-130J, citing its increased range, payload and the fact that it is a more proven platform.