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Mighty task for Hercules in Middle East

Posted 16 August 2018 · Add Comment

Nearly 200 C-130 Hercules aircraft have been operated by Middle East air forces since the first was delivered to Iran in 1962. Alan Warnes reports.

The Shah of Iran enjoyed a close relationship with the US back in the 1960s, so it was no surprise when the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) became the first Middle East Hercules operator, with the arrival of a C-130B (c/n 3698, IIAF 5-101) in June 1962.
It was the first of 61 Hercules delivered to the IIAF before the Shah was overthrown in 1979.
After Iran came Kuwait, which took delivery of a civilian L100-20 in December 1970, Jordan (ex-USAF, 1973), Egypt (first delivery December 1976), Saudi Arabia (December 1979), and Dubai/UAE (January 1981).
Then remained a long hiatus until Qatar, Oman, Iraq and Kuwait ordered 16 C-130J/-30s, which were delivered between 2011 and 2014.
In April 2016, there was a report that Egypt had ordered two C-130Js to be delivered in 2019, although Lockheed Martin (LM) won’t confirm this.
The tactical workhorse has proved popular in big countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Landing in hot and high conditions, as well as austere airfields, has only added to its popularity when a transport aircraft is needed to visit military outposts or civilian communities.
Today, the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) operates the biggest fleet (65) outside of the US. It contains six different variants, although only around 50 aircraft are still operational.
According to LM, there has been a shift from airlift and humanitarian type Hercules sorties to special operations, which has seen an increase in KC-130J demand in the region. A spokesman said: “Interoperability is a key issue, particularly between operators flying together in foreign countries like Yemen and against DAESH [over Iraq and Syria]. On air-to-air refuelling, you can’t take any receiver and plug into a tanker; it has to be qualified. And, because there are so many nations operating the C-130, we have qualified several refuelling platforms.”
Many of the Hercules are supported by the local companies. Despite military embargoes, Iran Aircraft Industries (SAHA) works alongside the military to keep the IIAF fleet in the air. Saudi’s Alsalam Aircraft Co, partnered with Boeing, carries out maintenance on the RSAF examples.
Egyptian Hercules are believed to be overhauled by the air force at Cairo-West, although some work in the past has been carried out at Helwan.
In the UAE, C-130 work is completed by the Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Center (AMMROC) at Abu Dhabi, but this will be transferred to the new complex at Al Ain, currently under construction, in 2019. The company is a joint venture between EDIC, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, and is being primed to overhaul all Hercules, including the C-130Js.
Singapore Technologies Aerospace, Hellenic Aerospace Industries and Marshalls of Cambridge, are all known Middle East C-130 maintenance companies. Iraq is currently looking to the latter to overhaul its six C-130Js, which have supported operations against DAESH since being delivered in 2012/13. Several have been hit by mortar fire.
There is still more to come. On November 9, 2012, the US Congress was notified of a possible $6.7 billion 25 C-130J deal, comprising 20 C-130J-30 and 5 KC-130J variants to Saudi Arabia. So far only two KC-130Js have been sold. A LM spokesman said: “It is a foreign military sales (FMS) agreement, so we are supporting the US Government in Saudi with the pacing of the deliveries.”
The UAE also had a requirement for 12 C-130Js, but these discussions seem to have stalled or broken down. The UAE is the biggest operator of the civilian certified L-100 Hercules; three currently serve the military and three are with the Dubai Air Wing. It is possible that the new LM-100J Super Hercules might be a favoured option.
 

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