The Government of Australia on July 24 confirmed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to acquire 20 new C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport turboprops.
The order had been expected since the end of last year when the Royal Australian Air Force selected the aircraft to replace 12 C-130Js that have been in service since the 1990s.
The acquisition contract reached the figure of 9.8 billion Australian dollars, about US$ 6.6 billion.
The first new C-130Js will be delivered from 2027 and will be allocated in No. 37 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond.
The Australian Ministry of Defense justified the choice by pointing to “significant benefits” for the country’s industry, with the construction of facilities and infrastructure to maintain the aircraft.
“The Government is ensuring the Australian Defense Force is equipped with brand new C-130J Hercules aircraft, and more of them, to respond to the wide range of challenges our nation will face in the future,” said Minister for Defense Industry Pat Conroy.
Despite this, there were those who contested the selection of the Super Hercules, which was carried out without the competing aircraft being able to be evaluated in depth. In addition to the C-130J, the Kawasaki C-2, the Airbus A400M and the Embraer C-390 Millennium participated in the tender.
The Royal Air Force claimed to have carried out an extensive analysis of the models during the competition for the Medium Air Mobility Aircraft (MAMA).
“We had a look at those four aircraft over 22 different requirements. They related to aircraft performance, certification across the roles in which we expect to utilize the aircraft and the ease with which we might transition the aircraft into service,” said RAAF Commander Air Marshal Robert Chipman in Senate testimony.
But the Australian media pointed out that the evaluation would have been a theoretical exercise since it took place during the pandemic, when it was not possible to carry out on-site presentations.
The C-130J is the oldest aircraft of the four and the underdog in capability and performance.
The Australian government, however, has closed defense agreements with the United States such as the one that provides for the manufacture of nuclear-powered submarines, abandoning a contract with France.