Following last month’s retirement of the Lockheed C-130K Hercules from RAF service, Global Aviation Resource visited MOD St Athan to view the Hercules aircraft stored within the Defence Support Group’s vast ‘Super Hangar’. Tom Gibbons reports, with images as credited.
Having made their last operational flights on 25 October, the final two of 66 Hercules C-130K transport aircraft delivered to the RAF – Hercules C3As XV177, callsign “Reynard 1” and XV214 “Reynard 2” – touched down at MOD St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan, on Tuesday 29 October 2013 for storage and potential onward sale.
The arrival of these aircraft brought to an end an exceptional 46 years of RAF C-130K service and the two aircraft joined a further six examples that had earlier entered storage. Notable amongst the eight aircraft is XV177 which, despite being the second aircraft in the initial batch of aircraft ordered, was the first of 66 examples to be delivered to the RAF, being handed over on 19 December 1966, and as such, it is fitting that she was one of the last pair to be retired.
The numbers of C-130Ks in RAF service had slowly dwindled over the last 12 years with early disposals to Lockheed Martin in part exchange for new C-130Js being some of the first to leave the RAF; a small number of these subsequently saw service with the Mexican Air Force, whilst later disposals entered service with the Air Forces of Austria and Sri Lanka.
The eight stored aircraft (XV177, 188, 196, 200, 209, 214, 295 and 303) comprise a selection of C1s, 3s and 3As, a number of which had been modified for a range of special operations with provision for an array of defensive aids, sensor systems and Enhanced Vision System modifications evident on the airframes. Whether these airframe modifications will have an effect on the viability of a future operator adding any of the ex-RAF examples to their fleets, or whether they are subsequently broken down for spares use, remains to be seen.
In addition to the aircraft stored at St Athan, XV208, ex-converted Met Research Flight W2 and latterly test airframe for the A400M’s EuroProp TP400 turboprop engine at Cambridge and C3 XV202 are the only remaining C-130Ks in the UK. XV202 was accepted by the RAF Museum, Cosford on the 19th September 2013 and is now on external display. Clearly the task of maintaining an aircraft of this size is a substantial one and as such it is doubtful that any others of the marque will be preserved in the UK.
With thanks to Andy MacIntyre, Defence Support Group and Paul Lindsay, Aerospace Wales.