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SOURCE: JOYDEEP GHOSH / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Royal Air Force (RAF) UK is set to retire its entire fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 tactical transport aircrafts by 2023. Numbering at 14 these tactical lift aircrafts represent an attractive proposition for any second-hand buyers especially India. These14 C-130Js being withdrawn from service more than a decade earlier than previously planned. RAF operated dozens of older C130K / H variants from 1967 till 2011. Reportedly these 14 C-130Jsaircraft have at least 15 -20 years of service life left in them including air frame, avionics and other parts. RAF also operates 8 C17 Globemaster III strategic lift aircraft.

UK which is withdrawing these C130 aircraft in favor of 22 A400 and 10 ‘core’ Airbus DS A330transport aircraft that it is buying from France, had an initial total fleet of 25of these J variants ever since these newer generation aircraft were inducted in RAF. RAF has been steadily selling off the older aircraft (C130H) to other countries including Bahrain and Bangladesh that have way smaller fuselage than these 14 C130Js.

These14 C-130Js were the latest and newest stretch variants of new generation C130s in its inventory, and these were set to be in service till 2035 at least. Most importantly these 14 aircraft have been upgraded in a US$ 10 million for Centre Wingbox Replacement Programme (CWRP). Out of these 14 C130Jsone is short-bodied C-130J C5 and 13 long-bodied C-130J-30 C4 variant. If India buys these 14 C130J and upgrades them as per requirement of IAF these aircraft could be well used for next 20 years at least for tactical airlift. IAF has 12 C130J-30 Super Hercules and is planning to buy more. if these 14 are bought from RAF, then IAF inventory will touch 32 C130J-30.

These 32 could play a important role in tactical airlift if ever India decides to take back PoJK, Gilgit Baltistan ad Shaksgham Valley/Trans Karakoram Track in the next 10 -15 years. A lot of nay Sayers may say what is the point when we are buying 56 C295, whose numbers are set to increase later as follow-on orders are given. Then they must know that Tata that has won the deal will first need to acquire land to build these 56 aircraft besides building a ecosystem to supply rotables and consumables and train human resources. All these are needed to ensure the C295 to be built from CKD / completely knocked down kits that will come from Spain don’t have quality issues. All these will ensure that the 1st C295 is available with IAF only by 2028-29 at the earliest and the last of 56 is not expected to roll out before 2038.

So what if IAF needs tactical airlift in case of conflict in the meantime, it is then these 14 second hand C130Js will come in handy. Do note that C295 is smaller in length and width even to the C130 J short body. While the cost of buying brand new C295 is more buying second hand C130J from RAF at much less cost could be a lip smacking opportunity not to be missed.

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Article by JOYDEEP GHOSH ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or idrw.org