Back to the future: Super Hercules selected as preferred airlift option

Line of Defence Update - 11 June 2019

Embraer KC-390
Hercules C-130
Air to air view of No. 40 Squadron Hercules NZ7002 over RNZAF Station Whenuapai. Source: NZ Govt.

In a surprise announcement coinciding with the release of the Defence Capability Plan 2019, the C-130J-30 Super Hercules has been selected as the preferred option for the replacement of the RNZAF’s aging C-130H fleet.

The replacement of the five Hercules transport aircraft is the highest priority project within the New Zealand Government’s Defence Capability Plan 2019. Other replacement contenders had included the Embraer KC-390, Airbus A400M and Kawasaki C2.

With Cabinet deciding to seek detailed costing information on the C-130J-30 Super Hercules as the replacement aircraft, earlier conjecture that the government might bypass the tender process and go straight to “sole-source” procurement has come to fruition.

“After considering the range of military air transport aircraft carefully, the Super Hercules has been selected as it offers the necessary range and payload capability as well as fully meeting NZDF’s requirements,” said Mr Mark.

A price will be sought through the United States’ Foreign Military Sale process for the C-130J-30 Super Hercules, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

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With more than 400 C-130Js already delivered to over 21 nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, it has long been touted the ‘safe’ option.

“It is used by key defence partners and carries a greater payload faster and further than the current fleet, with no loss of ability to land where our current Hercules are deployed.

“Tactical air transport capability is one of the highest value assets available to New Zealand, offering huge utility to the community and nation, enabling movement of personnel and cargo around the country, the South Pacific, down to Antarctica and all around the globe.

“We need a proven performer, and this aircraft is tried and tested. We cannot take risks with what is one of our most critical military capabilities,” said the Minister.

No final contract decision has been made, on either platform numbers, detailed costs, or funding and Budget implications. A Project Implementation Business Case is scheduled to be progressed to Cabinet next year, where these matters will be considered. The Defence Capability Plan 2019 noted that the estimated cost would be more than $1 billion.