Recent forces review (2010) wanted to retire all Hercules C130J from the R.A.F. but due to a delay in the Airbus A400M, only the short fuselage (C4) were retired or put in storage while the 14 stretched fuselage Hercs are kept in service.
“In a controversial move, the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 proposed removing the RAF’s entire C-130J fleet from service. But with the service facing a looming tactical airlift shortfall and delays to the introduction of tactical capabilities for its incoming Airbus Defence & Space A400M Atlas, this decision was partially reversed in its 2015 review, which identified a need to retain 14 Hercules.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows the RAF’s C4-model C-130Js as being aged between 17 and 21 years. Its short-fuselage C5-standard examples have already been retired from use or placed in storage. The UK acquired an original 25 “Super Hercules”, with one having been destroyed after sustaining damage from an improvised explosive device on landing at a remote airstrip in Iraq in 2007.”
The deal between the U.S. D.o.D. and the U.K. M.O.D. is worth $29.7million, a saving of $50million on a new aircraft.
An official statement from Naval Air Systems Command reads:
The Navy announced award of the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron’s new “Fat Albert,” the Blue Angels’ logistics cargo plane, June 13.
Scheduled for delivery in spring 2020, the $29.7 million contract was awarded to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MOD) for a divested C-130J Super Hercules. Cost savings associated with acquisition of the used aircraft and other airworthiness requirements is approximately $50 million less than the cost of a new aircraft.
“This is a win-win for the U.S. Navy and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence,” said Capt. Steven Nassau, PMA-207 program manager. “Just as the Navy recognized the imminent need to replace the Fat Albert aircraft, the UK MOD was divesting of an American made, C-130J; aircraft allowing us to acquire a suitable replacement aircraft at a major cost savings.”
In March 2018, PMA-207 received congressional approval to proceed with acquisition of the UK MOD C-130J with funding from Foreign Military Sales proceeds.
The last dedicated Fat Albert, a C-130T Hercules, retired May 2019 and now serves as a ground-based training platform in Fort Worth, Texas. Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron will continue flying Navy or Marine Corps C-130 Hercules assets until the replacement aircraft is complete.
All said, this seems like a great deal. The Marines don’t take a hit by having to give up one of their prized KC-130Js, while at the same time the Blues get an upgrade and the Navy doesn’t have to shell out roughly $75 million for a brand new airframe. On top of all that, America’s closest ally gets to unload an airframe it no longer wants.
The move is an interesting one on multiple levels. First off, NAVAIR decided it could not spare a single aircraft from its own KC-130J inventory, of which it has roughly 53 in service, nor could the USAF spare a C-130 airframe apparently either. On the other hand, apparently the Royal Air Force has C-130Js to spare, which stands in stark contrast to what was widely viewed as an airlift deficit over the last decade and a half, although clearly the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan helped with this issue considerably.
Keeping it in the family, can we now call Fat Albert, Stout Albert instead. Just an idea.