The Tunisian Air Force has received its second and final C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft from Lockheed Martin, more than a year after the first was delivered in April 2013.
The aircraft was handed over on December 11 during a ceremony at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Georgia. One it arrives in Tunisia it will join 21 Squadron, based at Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed Air Base.
Tunisia was the first African country to receive a J model Hercules, after signing a contract for two aircraft, training and three years of logistical support in March 2010.
Tunisia’s new C-130Js are the longer fuselage or “stretched” variant of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin said Tunisia’s new C-130Js will support operations across the mission spectrum, including relief efforts around the world, firefighting and traditional airlift sorties. For firefighting, the Tunisian aircraft are equipped with the MAFFS (modular airborne firefighting system).
“Tunisia’s Super Hercules fleet is both a national and a regional asset, able to support more missions than any other aircraft in operation today,” said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, C-130 Programmes, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “We are proud to have Tunisia as a member of the global C-130J family. As legacy operators, Tunisian Air Force crews have long showcased why the C-130 is the world’s most versatile aircraft and continue to do so with its C-130J fleet.”
Tunisia currently operates a fleet of one C-130H and seven C-130Bs, which are decades old.
The Super Hercules has been ordered by 16 countries and has accumulated over 1.2 million flight hours to date. Lockheed Martin says the C-130J is available in nine variants and offers operators 17 different mission configurations.
Lockheed Martin is also courting other potential African customers for the Super Hercules. The C-130J was demonstrated to Angola several months ago and has been demonstrated by the US Air Force in Morocco, Algeria and Nigeria in the past.
Dennys Plessas, Vice President Business Development Initiatives at Lockheed Martin, earlier this year said that there has been a lot of interest in the J in Africa especially from countries interested in modernising their legacy aircraft. He believes there is scope for the South African Air Force (SAAF) to operate the Super Hercules given the need for transport and aerial refuelling aircraft.
Lockheed Martin believes the C-130J is ideal for the African continent because it is available in many different variants, such as airlift, airdrop, paradrop, search and rescue, special operations, medevac, maritime patrol, weather reconnaissance, firefighting, electronic warfare, armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), personnel recovery, humanitarian aid, commercial freighter, VIP transport, tanker etc. A C-130J Sea Hercules is available in three variants: maritime surveillance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare and could be fitted with torpedoes, sonobuoys, a magnetic anomaly detector, anti-ship missiles, infrared/electro-optical sensors and maritime surveillance radar.
There are currently around 120 legacy C-130s flying on the African continent.