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Australia sticks with C-130J for AIR 7404 air mobility project

Royal Australian Air Force file photo

The Australian defense department has determined the C-130J Hercules to be the best successor for its medium air mobility fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules aircraft.

The defense ministry said it approached a number of aircraft manufacturers for Project AIR 7404 phase 1, adding that it assessed merits of each aircraft against Australia’s capability requirements before settling for the C-130J.

The C-130J Hercules variant has been operated by the Royal Australian Air Force since 1999, and will now be replaced and expanded by new airframes.

The defense ministry did not reveal what other aircraft types have been assessed. It also did not disclose the number of new C-130Js that will be bought.

“Defense seeks a low risk, certified in all roles, proven, mature and affordable replacement aircraft that meets Australia’s air mobility needs. Project principles have incorporated lessons learned from previous major defense acquisitions as well as the in-service experience with the current C‑130J fleet,” the defense ministry statement said.

The defense ministry further elaborated that the acquisition of new C-130J aircraft represents the only option that meets all of Australia’s capability requirements and assures the country’s medium air mobility capability without introducing substantial cost, schedule and capability risk.

As a result, the C-130J will be the only option that the defense ministry will progress for government approval in 2023.

The decision represents a win for Lockheed Martin after the Netherlands decided earlier this year to replace its fleet of old C-130H Hercules transport aircraft with Embraer-built C-390 Millenium aircraft.