Extra R1 billion for SAAF to get C-130 Hercules airworthy


National Treasury has granted the South African Air Force (SAAF) an extra R1 billion to get its six C-130BZ Hercules transports airworthy, but a decision has not been taken on whether to accept two additional Hercules from the United States as this would require additional funding.

National Treasury, in its February budget, allocated an additional R1 billion in 2023/24 to the “medium air transport capability” of the SAAF. Major General Thembelani Xundu on 22 March explained to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) how funding would be spent on the six remaining C-130s (the SAAF had nine serviceable examples but two have been written off in accidents and one has been cannibalised for spares).

The tail numbers of the C-130s that the SAAF wants to be kept flying are 401, 402, 405, 406, 408, and 409. However, between now and 2029, this will cost just over R4 billion. Maintaining and overhauling the C-130 fleet in 2023/24 will cost R455 million and R373 million the following year, Xundu’s presentation revealed.

He said that major servicing and upgrade of 405 and 409 can be funded, with major servicing to be done in the UK “by the company that did the upgrade of the BZs in the 1990s” (Marshall Aerospace). 405’s major service and upgrade is scheduled for mid-2024 – this will take about 18 months. 409 has 180 hours left before its major service is required.

The SAAF aims to have at least one or two C-130s operational at any time while the others undergo maintenance. 405 is supposed to be serviceable but is currently undergoing maintenance at Denel – this was supposed to be completed in November 2022, but should be finished this month.

As for the two surplus C-130H Hercules offered by the United States, Xundu said there are still discussions at the Department of Defence over financing this. “If the Department of Defence takes the decision to take them, the Air Force calculates we will need R900 million extra,” he said.