More money to keep Hercules flying


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has upped its bill to keep the venerable Lockheed Martin C130BZ flying by another R13 million. The SAAF last week awarded Denel Aviation an extension of an existing contract to provide product support services for the aging aircraft.

According to the Armscor Bulletin System, the cost of keeping the Hercules flying – fuel and crew excluded – now stands at at least R226 909 250 since early 2007 in addition to a minimum of R3 686 241.08 charged in hangarage for the damaged aircraft #402 from 2005 until last year.

The SAAF C-130 fleet consists of seven platforms (401 – 407) purchased in 1963 before a US arms embargo was imposed on South Africa’s apartheid government and five received in 1997/8 from the US (two ex-United States Air Force C-130B’s – 408 and 409 – and three ex-US Navy C-130F’s – 410 to 412 as part of their Excess Defence Articles programme. The two ex-US C-130B ‘s and a C-130F (411) were subsequently put in service, but the C-130F was retired soon thereafter.

Various modifications have been accomplished on the original SAAF aircraft, the most significant being a centre wing replacement and outer wing refurbishment from 1969 to 1972 done under the auspices of Lockheed, an engine upgrade (from Allison T56-A-7 to T56-A-15) during the early 1970s and a basic avionic upgrade during the early 1980s.

The two ex-USAF C-130B’s had already been modified with the fitment of H-model outer wings and a centre wing similar to that of the other SAAF aircraft. The fleet underwent a major refit from December 1996, when Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge in the UK and Denel was contracted to upgrade the aircraft as part of Project Ebb, fitting inter alia digital avionics in the place of the electromechanical. The upgrade was not without delay and infighting between Marshalls and Denel and ran seven years past its expected date of completion, set for June 2002: the project wrapped up as late as July 2009.

Aircraft 402’s brakes caught fire during a landing after a test flight in early 2005 at the then-Johannesburg International Airport. Damage estimated in the millions of rand was inflicted on the aircraft and an equally damaging dispute then erupted between Denel and Marshalls as to whom had to carry the cost of the repairs. It remains unclear why the taxpayer paid the R6 579 134 for the repair as well as a further R3 686 241.08 for hangarage at Denel Aviation before and during the repair. Another aircraft was also damaged while undergoing testing after upgrading – its fuel tanks were over-pressurised.

Seven of the nine were grounded in 2005 on the recommendation of the manufacturer after metal fatigue was discovered on the main spars and outer wing structures of several US C130Bs. As part of this the outer wings of aircraft 407 were removed. Lockheed Martin subsequently allowed three aircraft to resume flying, but in May 2006 the remaining four underwent a further battery of tests.

Product support services for the Hercules C130 aircraft – extension of ELGS/2003/553

LGS/S2011/4808 11 Aug 2011 R13 096 571,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2011/4782 14 Jul 2011 R23 769 819,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2010/4663 17 Mar 2011 R9 500 000,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2010/4528 18 Nov 2010 R10 404 045,14 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Aerospace Group

LGS/S2010/4505 22 Sep 2010 R9 812 323,86 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Aerospace Group

LGS/S2009/4242 10 Mar 2010 R39 377 194,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2009/4139 8 Oct 2009 R9 500 000,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2008/3933 26 Mar 2009 R485 607,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

Provision of materiel supply support services for the South African Air Force C130B aircraft

ELGS/2010/199 9 Dec 2010 R90 000 000,00 Tau Aerospace (Pty) Ltd

Service, rectification and engineering support during recovery of the SAAF C-130BZ aircraft 402 – extension of EVLI/2007/378

VLI/S2010/1811 21 Jul 2010 R22 028,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2010/1797 13 Jul 2010 R200 000,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2008/1746 28 May 2009 R1 075 583,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

Hangarage of Project EBB C130Bz Aircraft 402 – Extension of ELGS/2005/413

LGS/S2009/1781 12 Jan 2010 R393 595,92 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2009/1774 29 Oct 2009 R655 993,20 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2009/1763 21 May 2009 R511 852,86 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2008/1726 26 Jun 2008 R523 008,61 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

LGS/S2007/1679 2 Aug 2007 R1 601 790,49 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

Interim support for the SA Air Force C-130 BZ avionic system – extension of EVLI/2006/228

VLI/S2008/1743 11 Dec 2008 R2 000 000,00 Thales Division Aeronautique

VLI/S2007/1711 4 Sep 2008 R2 877 253,20 Thales Division Aeronautique

VLI/S2007/1673 28 Jun 2007 R990 236,00 Thales Division Aeronautique

Pyrotechnic fire extinguisher cartridges for the SAAF transport aircraft

EDWU/2008/190 9 Oct 2008 R97 414,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a PMP

Service, rectification and engineering support during the recovery of SAAF C-130BZ Aircraft 402

EVLI/2007/378 29 May 2008 R5 281 523,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

Repair of 59 line replacement units – extension of EVLI/2003/680

VLI/S2008/1731 10 Jul 2008 R502 276,90 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2007/1709 15 May 2008 R18 415,35 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Denel Aviation

VLI/S2007/1663 11 May 2007 R1 500 000,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Aerospace Group

Power cartridges for SA Air Force transport aircraft 2007/2008

EDWU/2007/126 23 Aug 2007 R172 316,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a PMP

Interim support of the South African Air Force”s C-130 BZ avionic system (Thales Avionics Top Deck)

EVLI/2006/228 12 Apr 2007 R6 075 607,56 Thales Division Aeronautique

Fire extinguisher cartridges for SAAF transport aircraft

EDWU/2006/505 9 Feb 2007 R151 037,10 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a PMP