A Nigerian Air Force C-130 Hercules transport en route to the United Kingdom had to be escorted by French and UK air force aircraft after its radio failed. The aircraft was travelling to the UK for maintenance as Nigeria is refurbishes its transport fleet.
The Hercules was on its way for a major servicing by Marshall Aerospace at Cambridge on Saturday when the 30 year old transport’s radio failed. However, the pilot changed his transponder code, alerting French authorities to the problem.
French aircraft were dispatched to escort the C-130 across the English Channel. Once across, two Royal Air Force Typhoons escorted the transport to Cambridge Airport.
The jets circled Cambridge airport before returning to Lincolnshire. Upon landing, police were waiting for the crew, who were interviewed by immigration officials before being cleared for entry.
The C-130H is expected to remain at Cambridge airport for four months, according to the BBC.
The Nigerian Air Force is in the process of refurbishing five of its eight surviving C-130Hs. The US recently agreed to help Nigeria build up its transport capacity, with an eye on using them for peacekeeping support and one of the C-130s was duly put through a US$9.2 million Programmed Depot Maintenance process in Lisbon, Portugal. Nigerian technicians were also instructed how to maintain the aircraft themselves. The refurbished aircraft was officially handed over to the Nigerian Air Force on January 26 this year.
The C-130 fleet is more than three decades old and by 2009 only one example was flying. Nigeria originally received six C-130s three decades ago and another three C-130H-30s a decade later, but one C-130 crashed on September 29, 1992, killing at least 160 people, including many senior military personnel.
The NAF is currently selling three C-130s, amongst other aircraft.
As it overhauls its transport fleet the Nigerian Air Force is also upgrading some of its Aeritalia G.222s, which had been grounded for years. In July 2005 the Air Force signed a contract with Alenia Aeronautica to refurbish five G.222s and acquire an additional ex-Italian Air Force example. The first refurbished aircraft began flying in 2007.
The Nigerian Air Force has recently taken delivery of two ATR 42MP maritime patrol aircraft. The first was delivered in December 2009 and the second in March last year.