Australia double dips on C-130J transport replacement

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According to Shepard's defence insight:

On 1 November, the Australian DoD announced that it had selected a replacement platform for its fleet of a dozen C-130Js. In fact, these aircraft operated since 1999 will be replaced with more of the same.

Although numbers were not mentioned in the announcement, it did say the [RAAF] will be ‘expanding’ its fleet.

Australia’s C-130Js received from 1999-2001 will reach their 30-year life of type in FY2030-31. The name for this RAAF replacement and expansion exercise is Project Air 7404 Phase 1.

The DoD said it had ‘approached a number of aircraft manufacturers and received information on all available medium air mobility options. The relative merits of each aircraft type have been assessed against Australia’s capability requirements.’

Contenders are thought to have included the Airbus A400M, Embraer C-390 and Kawasaki C-2.

In seeking a ‘low-risk, certified-in-all-roles, proven, mature and affordable replacement aircraft’, the DoD concluded that new C-130Js represented ‘the only option that meets all of Australia’s capability requirements’.

The project will progress forward for government approval next year. Indeed, Canberra has likely already initiated an FMS approval process with the US.

A decision on the procurement will only occur after the Defence Strategic Review is published early in 2023.

Canberra did not divulge aircraft numbers, but around 24 long-bodied C-130J-30 variants seems probable. Shephard has previously discussed the possibility that KC-130J tanker versions could be among them too.

These new Hercules transports will replace the existing hard-working C-130Js of No 37 Squadron, and quite likely the ten C-27J Spartans of No 35 Squadron. The C-27J has proved to be a troubled procurement, as the fleet struggles with availability and configuration issues.