The major movers of men and materiel in the SA Air Force (SAAF) – 28 Squadron’s small and shrinking number of vintage C-130BZ Hercules – will remain in service with no indication of replacements on the horizon.
That the four-engined, high-wing American manufactured aircraft will continue logging hours in support of government taskings comes in the form of a request for information (RfI) issued by Armscor.
The State-owned defence and security acquisition agency published the RfI last week. It, verbatim, asks for “SAAF C-130BZ ADS-B OUT Implementation, SFD Obsolescence Replacement and Aircraft Servicing”.
ADS-B OUT is equipment that broadcasts information on an aircraft’s GPS (global positioning system) location, altitude, ground speed and other data to ground stations and other aircraft, once a second.
SFD refers to standby flight display. The tender notification seeks to replace units currently installed due to “obsolescence” and aircraft servicing.
Denel Aviation is, as far as is known, still a registered AMO (aircraft maintenance organisation) for Lockheed Martin, the American manufacturer of the phenomenally successful C-130 Hercules medium transport aircraft. Retired SAAF officers told defenceWeb, on condition of anonymity, Denel Aviation “should be the obvious tenderer” adding “much depends on the financial situation as the entire Denel group faces major problems”.
In 2009 a three-way partnership between the SAAF, Denel and Lockheed Martin saw the State-owned defence and technology conglomerate named an authorised C-130 service centre – the only one in Africa – providing support to SAAF Hercules and others in Africa.
The closing date for the Armscor RfI is 7 January.
The C-130 is the SAAF’s transport workhorse, most recently supporting South Africa’s contribution to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) and in July transporting soldiers and equipment to KwaZulu-Natal to help quell civil unrest there.
Eight years ago in 2013, the SAAF and 28 Squadron in particular marked the 50th in-service anniversary of the American transport. It coincided with the AFB (Air Force Base) Waterkloof squadron’s 70th anniversary.
A C-130BZ which featured prominently in the 2013 commemorative events was 403. It, along with cargo drop parachutes, was décor for the gala evening in a 28 Squadron hangar. The aircraft was written off following a runway excursion at Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in January 2020. It was disassembled by SAAF ground crew technicians with usable components returned to South Africa to assist in keeping the remaining C-130BZs flying.
There are many of 28 Squadron’s missions, sorties and taskings that will long be remembered by the squadron, its current and past personnel as well as the SAAF but some stand out.
One was delivery of 218 tons of much-needed equipment to South African paratroopers to Bangui in Central African Republic (CAR) in March 2013. More than 170 flying hours were logged in 15 days by one of the Allison-powered workhorses.
In 1963 the SAAF received five C-130Bs from the US assigned South African tail numbers 401, 402, 403, 404 and 405. All were officially taken on strength by the SAAF on 19 January 1963. Two more – 406 and 407 – were delivered to 28 Squadron the same year.
In 1997/8 the US donated a pair of ex-USAF C-130Bs (408 and 409) and three ex-USN C-130F Hercules aircraft as part of an excess defence articles programme to the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). Both ex-US C-130Bs and one C-130F were subsequently taken into service with the C-130F retired soon after.
defenceWeb understands 401 and 405 are undergoing scheduled maintenance, while 406 and 409 are airworthy and flying with a major service recently completed.