Monday, September 23, 2013

Tankers in the Falklands, C130s to the scrapyard...

Thanks to Tony Osborne's tweeter feed. He is one to follow, if you are not doing it already.

Tony Osborne ‏@Rotorfocus 40m
Tristar retirement still expected in March 14, but RAF has option of six month extension. #avgeeks

Tony Osborne ‏@Rotorfocus 34m @Airtanker will base one Voyager in the Falklands from March after Tristar retirement, but RAF is exploring other tanker options #avgeeks

Tony Osborne ‏@Rotorfocus 35m

A330/Voyager will not fit into hangar at Mount Pleasant airfield, Falkland Islands, among issues #avgeeks

Again i say, could the BAE 146 MK3 become the Falklands tanker after Afghanistan is over...?

Also, one sad but not unexpected news:

Tony Osborne ‏@Rotorfocus 39m

RAF will retire/withdraw four C-130J C5 (short) models during 2016 as part of drawdown of Hercules fleet. #avgeeks


  1. BAe 146 configured as a tanker hasn't got the fuel to give away to support two Typhoons diverting to Chile. The more logical solution is to base two A400M at MPA replacing the C130J and A330. Buy the wing pods and the A400M is a highly suitable tanker for MPA.

  2. The decision to retire 4 Hercules C5 is dissapointing, especially when it seems to me that the most obvious solution for the Falklands tanker issue would be simply to employ a modified Hercules as the tanker for the next decade.

  3. Fedaykin - just following up on your comments -

    1. No decision has been taken to deploy an A330 at MPA although obviously with only 9 aircraft available this isn't really likely to be sustainable as an option
    2. Your suggestion that 2 A400M be deployed may be logical, if money and operational capabilities elsewhere were not object, but to be clear -
    a. The RAF are only planning to buy 22, which probably translates into 16 operational, which would mean 13% of the entire fleet being deployed to the Falklands....
    b. The RAF are specifically not planning to buy the air to air refueling pods for the A400M and there my actual be a problem with that anyway - I am pretty sure that there are elements of the Airtanker contract which say the RAF can't use air to air refueling solutions.....
    The later point would probably mean whatever additional airframe is procured to carry out the service will need to be done via the airtanker contract....

    1. They could always change their mind about the A400 AAR kit.

      As for the Air Tanker "exclusivity clause", i think you, like so many others, are reading it in the wrong way. But i'm sincerely tired like hell to explain it again and again, so i just link you to my old piece on the FSTA contract:

    2. Ahhh - my thanks on the exclusivity clause point - very useful. Doesn't really redeem the contract in my eyes, but removes one of the worst concerns I had.

      On the AAR kit - they could, although you must admit that is rather rare, particularly where an increase in money required would be the result. As I note above, my primary concern in that regard would be the permanent deployment of 13% of a extremely limited resource required to actually enable global deployments.... It just doesn't make sense, unless we consider defence of the South Atlantic to be one of the primary roles of the UK Armed Forces..., but that is a whole different question which I don't want to get into!

    3. Defence of the South Atlantic IS a primarily role of the british forces and will be for many more years. The natural resources in the area might make the role even more important soon.

      As for the precious, few A400s, well, the same can be said for the even fewer Voyager tankers! At least using two A400 would cut the logistic costs by having two aircraft of the same type insted of a Tristar and a C130.
      If the BAE 146 could carry enough fuel and have enough range, it would be a perfect fit. It might be too limited to meet requirements, though. There are great distances involved, after all.

  4. But the Royal air transport squadron would lose its BAE 146

    1. The two BAE 146 Mk3 Quick Change have been procured as UOR for Afghanistan, in addition to the VIP-carrying aircraft that 32 Sqn already had.

  5. Gaby

    I know that the the RAF has a total of 25 C-130J C4/C5 aircraft but I am not sure how they divide (i.e. how many of each). Can you help?

    As Framedman says, the decision to retire four of the C5s is disappointing. Will it affect future UK parachuting capability, do you think? Not that much of that goes on nowadays.

    1. 10 C130J C5 and 14 C130J C4.

      As for it being disappointing, sure, but if the plan is respected, the A400M will have hit IOC in 2015, with at least three airplanes being operational, so it won't be as painful as other cuts have been.

  6. Gaby

    Thanks very much for that information.

    1. Checked my data, and i'm actually amazed by how good the deal seems to be: if the RAF waits until 2016 before beginning to remove the first few C130Js, and the A400M sticks to the planned timeline, the deal is pretty good:

      3 A400 to be delivered in 2014
      8 A400 to be delivered in 2015
      6 A400 to be delivered in 2016
      2 A400 to be delivered in 2017
      Last delivery in 2021, following a weird "gap" of a few years without deliveries.

  7. "A330/Voyager will not fit into hangar at Mount Pleasant airfield, Falkland Islands, among issues"
    Its a tin prefab
    Build a bigger one

    1. Of course that's an option. But equally evidently, i don't think that that is the problem that is making the RAF think hard about whether or not a different solution can be found.

  8. WIth all the talk of A400 numbers and the Herc retiring not many mentions on what will take on the SF role with 47 Squadron.

    I would hope some C30J would be retained for this, too few A400 as it is and I believe they were not ideal for what UKSF have in mind as a C130K replacement?

    1. There will be a gap in SF support as the last C-130Ks in the role are withdrawn, before project HERMES suitably modifies a number of C-130J with the same kit. This is due to delays on the US side with software Block 7.0 for the C130J.

      In the longer term, the UKSF are likely to argue to keep at least a few C130s around even as the A400 fleet is completed. Whether their campaign will be successful, it's too early to say.

    2. If you could provide clear primary evidence on this gap? The parliamentary reply said no comment.

      Twitter is not a primary resource

    3. I don't know what "primary evidence" you are seeking. The C130K fleet, which included aircraft specially fitted for SF work, will have soon gone entirely. And the block 7.0 software on C130J hadn't been cleared to fly yet as of August.
      I don't know if it has finally been able to go into flying trials, but times usually are long.
      They will probably never admit it, but i see no chances of avoiding a gap in SF aircraft capability, because even when Block 7.0 is validated, they have to install all the SF gear itself, trial it and validate it. At best, it will take months. Perhaps the gap will be short (hopefully), but i doubt it can be avoided entirely.

      Project Hermes has suffered many years of delays because of delays to Block 7.0 itself: in 2008 the NAO noted that Block 7.0 had to embodied in 2011, and SF gear would be added to the airplanes in November 2012 under project Hermes:

      It's September 2013 and as far as i know Block 7.0 is still a problem, and until it is, Hermes is motionless as it needs the new software and processor as base.

  9. Any idea if the hercules fleet or part of it has any future as forming a potential mpa? Given logistic and maintenace contracts are in place?


    1. Cobham first and Lochkeed Martin afterwards have been offering a C130J conversion. LM's proposal, the Sea Hercules, looks pretty promising. Whether it is being considered seriously by the MOD or not, is hard to say.

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