Australia buys 20 new C-130J Hercules from the US weeks after UK retires aircraft

Australia is set to buy 20 new C-130J Hercules for their air force from the US, just one month after the UK retired its Hercules fleet.

The new Hercules will replace the 12 already in service with the Royal Australian Air Force, costing $9.8 billion (£7.6 million), with the first expected to be delivered from late 2027.

The Australian Defence Force uses the Hercules to deploy personnel, equipment and humanitarian supplies.

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Richard Marles MP, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, said the Hercules is “an important capability for our defence force, but also for Australia as a nation”.

“From bushfire and flood emergencies across the country, the delivery of crucial supplies to the region during the COVID-19 pandemic and more than two decades supporting peacekeeping operations, this has and will continue to be a crucial asset,” he said.

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It comes after the UK retired the Hercules last month, a decision that received a fair amount of criticism.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, said plans to replace the aircraft would leave a temporary capability hole for Special Forces operations.

AM Sir Richard, at the time, said: “There is a gap from when the Hercules goes out of service to when the A400M picks up all of those capabilities.

“The niche issues where the gap is is around the airdrop and the kind of things we can drop from the aircraft.”

This sentiment was echoed by former RAF chiefs and other top commanders, who called the decision to replace the transport aircraft with the larger Airbus A400M “perverse”.

In a joint letter published in The Times, the letter from numerous military figures said: “At a time of great international tension, the decision to remove a proven and effective workhorse is extraordinary.”

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