Brazil offers retired Hercules transports to South Africa


Brazil has offered four surplus Lockheed Hercules four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft to the South African Air Force.

The unsolicited offer, directed by the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) to the SAAF in July this year, comprises threeC-130E and one SC-130E Hercules aircraft.

The SAAF took delivery of seven new C-130B Hercules in 1963, of which six remain in use. Three ex-US Navy C-130F aircraft were acquired in 1996, with a further two ex-US Air Force C-130Bs delivered in 1998, all under the United States Excess Defense Articles Program.

The F models were retired shortly after delivery, but the nine C-130B Hercules were upgraded and modernised between 1996 to 2009 to the C-130BZ configuration, incorporating a modern glass cockpit.

The C-130E model is essentially an extended range version of the C-130B. A 1,360 US gal (5,150 L) external fuel tank is installed under each wing, together with structural improvements and a higher gross weight.

Brazil acquired eight C-130Es between 1964 and 1968, followed by three SC-130E models in 1969. The SC-130E is a Search and Rescue (SAR) version of the C-130E, featuring additional crew posts and two large observation windows.

The SAAF is struggling to meet its transportation commitments and the Hercules fleet is being stretched by financial and maintenance issues. Only a handful are believed to be in service, with at least two out of service, awaiting repair.

South Africa withdrew from the Airbus Military A400M programme in 2009 when the order for eight of the European strategic military transport and tanker aircraft was cancelled. The existing C-130BZs are projected to keep flying until 2020, but the Air Force has yet to issue a request for information (RFI) or a request for proposals (RFP) for replacements.

The Air Force is currently seeking maritime patrol and medium transport aircraft as part of Project Saucepan.

The Brazilian offer includes two C-130E models in airworthy condition, having last flown in July and November 2011. A further C-130E, which last flew in 2007, has no engines, propellers and various other components, whilst the single SC-130E last flew in April 2010 and is also missing its engines, propellers and Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).

The addition of the Brazilian aircraft would certainly come in useful for the SAAF which is understood to have only four Hercules aircraft available every day. While the Brazilian aircraft have already undergone a Centre Wing Structural Replacement program, they will require significant additional funding to upgrade the aircraft to the current C-130BZ standard in service with the SAAF today.

The SAAF has not yet responded to the FAB offer and it appears that South Africa will have to wait a while longer to supplement its transport force.