About to complete 60 years in service with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), the Lockheed C-130 Hercules airlifter is close to retirement.
Of the nearly three dozen that flew for the FAB, only four active C-130s remain, according to data from FlightRadar24. These turboprops are expected to be withdrawn from service at the end of 2023, as stated in a document published by the Air Force in September 2022.
Aircraft with registration FAB 2462, 2472, 2473 and 2476, are the ones that still have a very extensive inspection to expire, stage in which the FAB considered as a limit to remove them from service.
Of the four Hercules, FAB 2462 is the only one of the KC-130H type, which performs aerial refueling. The Air Force had two of them but the FAB 2461 would have been deactivated last year.
The retirement of the C-130 Hercules was decided in 2016, in line with the progress of the KC-390 program, Embraer’s multirole aircraft, which offers greater capacity, versatility and speed than the old turboprop.
The FAB’s first KC-390 was delivered in September 2019 and currently five of these jets are in service, with a sixth aircraft about to be delivered by Embraer.
It is precisely the KC-390 that could postpone the end of the Hercules era in Brazil. According to FAB’s plan, the withdrawal of the C-130s must accompany the deployment of the Embraer aircraft.
“If necessary and in a timely manner, re-evaluate the need for adjustment within the C-130 deactivation period, depending on the results of the deployment of the KC-390 in the FAB, especially with regard to the operation of the MAFFS II“, explains a note from the General Staff of the Air Force.
MAFFS II is a firefighting system, already approved recently.
Since the beginning of the Hercules decommissioning program, the FAB has withdrawn 17 of these turboprops from operation, five of them between 2021 and 2022 (see table).
In the meantime, in addition to the five KC-390s, the Air Force was reinforced with two Airbus A330-200s, which were designated KC-30s and took on part of the transport missions.
However, the change in the contract for the acquisition of the KC-390, at the initiative of the former Air Force Commander, Lieutenant Brigadier Baptista Junior, reduced the order from 28 to 19 aircraft, in addition to extending the delivery schedule.
As for the retired C-130s, one of them, FAB 2453, has been preserved at the Air Force Museum.
Three aircraft, however, became tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro. The Hercules were acquired by a resort hotel, where they are even used as accommodation by guests.