First French C-130J mission to Mali


Having taken delivery of its first C-130J Super Hercules in December, the French air force used it for the first time on an international test mission, ferrying personnel and equipment to Mali.

Only three months after its service introduction at Air Base 123 at Orléans, the first C-130J took off on March 20 for N’Djamena, then Niamey, Niger, for its first logistic mission outside metropolitan France, in support of Operation Barkhane, the French Air Force said.

The mission is to ensure the transport of freight and passengers in the context of a so-called “synthesis” experiment, conducted jointly by the Military Air Expertise Centre (CEAM), Transport Squadron 2/61 “Franche-Comte” and the C-130 Aeronautical Technical Support Squadron (ESTA).

The French Air Force said it is intended as a validation operation ahead of real logistics missions.

On all stages of this mission in Sub-Saharan Africa, the C-130J was close to its maximum load (18.7 tonnes). For comparison purposes, under equivalent flight conditions the C-130J has a carrying capacity three times higher than the C160 Transall (15 tonnes compared to 5-6 tonnes.)

The return mission was scheduled for March 22.

The purchase of four C-130Js by France in 2015, the first of which was delivered to the Air Force on 22 December 2017, aims to strengthen in the short term the medium lift capability of the Air Force, also provided by the C-160 and C-130H. The purchase makes up for delays in deliveries of France’s A400M Atlas transports from Airbus Military.