Austria is officially looking for new airlifters to replace the local air force’s fleet of aging C-130 Hercules. Spokesman for the Austrian Ministry of Defense, Michael Bauer, announced via Twitter that the government had sent requests for information to potential interested parties.
The aircraft to be chosen should carry 20 tons of cargo and be capable of aerial refueling on a single platform.
According to Bauer, between four and five aircraft will be purchased, with the signature of the agreement scheduled for the 1st half of 2024 and deliveries until 2030.
Neuigkeiten zur C-130-Nachfolge: Es werden 4-5 Flugzeuge beschafft; Anforderungen ua. 20t Gewichtskapazität, Luftbetankung muss möglich sein, 1-Flottensystem, Vertragsunterzeichnung im 1. HJ 2024, Zulauf spätestens 2030. Eine Anfrage wurde an 29 Staaten verschickt. #Bundesheer
— Michael Bauer (@Bundesheerbauer) April 3, 2023
The Austrian Air Force currently operates three C-130K aircraft, the designation of the Hercules in the export version for the Royal Air Force.
The aircraft were produced in the 1980s and acquired by Austria from the British in 2003, with an estimated service life until the mid-2030s.
Embraer KC-390 among candidates
In addition to the C-130J Hercules, which is always a traditional competitor, the KC-390, from Embraer, appears as a strong candidate.
A sign of this is that Austria participated in the User Group C-390, the first meeting of operators of the Embraer airlifter, held in Portugal last week, although representatives of the country have stated that there is still no decision on the project.
The disclosure of the initial requirements, however, especially the capacity of 20 tons of cargo, greatly increased the complexity of the program, removing aircraft such as the Leonardo C-27J Spartan and the Airbus Casa C295 from the competition.
It is expected that the dispute could fall between the KC-390 and the Lockheed Martin C-130J, or include larger aircraft such as the Airbus A400M Atlas or the Kawasaki C-2.
As a NATO member, Austria could benefit from the experience of other KC-390 customer countries such as Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands. Despite this, the US manufacturer has been the most common choice for many air forces, as has been the case in Australia recently.