October 20, 2017 (by Helen Chachaty) - The first of four C-130Js to equip the French Air Force rolled out October 20th. Painted in the colors of the Air Force, Lockheed Martin's transport aircraft is expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
Roll-out of the first French Air Force C-130J from Lockheed Martin's Marietta facility. [Lockheed Martin photo]
The rest of the fleet, which will ultimately consist of four aircraft, is expected to be delivered in the next two years, with versions with in-flight refueling capabilities (KC-130J) expected in 2019.
Announced in December 2015 as part of the update of the Military Programming Act, the order of four C-130Js aims to overcome the A400M's capacity shortfalls in terms of refueling of helicopters, but also to increase the capabilities transportation of equipment and personnel.
The Super Hercules will be integrated into a Franco-German fleet, which will be based at BA105 Evreux. It should include ten planes, four from the Air Force, six from the Luftwaffe - even though the German government has still not placed an order with Lockheed Martin. The decision to establish a Franco-German fleet was announced in autumn 2016 and was followed by an intergovernmental agreement between France and Germany last April on the organization of operation, maintenance and staff training.
Major-General Admiral Philippe Coindreau also visited Berlin and signed a new cooperation agreement with his German counterpart, Vice-Admiral Joachim Rühle on 18 October.
Few details have been filtered on the exact configuration of the future Franco-German fleet, but the schedule provides for a first operational capability - and initial operations - from 2021 onwards. full operational capacity is expected for 2024. A training center will be built in cooperation between France and Germany and should be equipped with one or two simulators. The trainings will begin in 2021 on the BA105, for both crews and mechanics.
The final details of this cooperation must be settled by mid-2018, before the final signing of the intergovernmental agreement.