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C-130 News: Deal to extend Hercules' life secures 1,200 UK engineering jobs


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A major contract to maintain the Royal Air Force’s fleet of US-made Hercules aircraft has been awarded to British companies, safeguarding 1,200 UK jobs.

The bulk of the £369m deal to extend the life of the four-engine transport aeroplanes until 2030 will go to Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace and Defense Group.

Under the terms of the six-year contract, about 1,100 jobs around Cambridge servicing the C-130J aircraft, which carry troops and cargo, will be protected.

A further 100 jobs at Rolls-Royce, which will maintain the aircrafts’ engines, and at the UK arm of Lockheed Martin, which will manage the supply chain of parts needed, will also be safeguarded.

Winning the contract is a coup for the Marshall, as the Hercules were originally built by Lockheed at its plant in Georgia.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This contract is further evidence of what the growing defense budget, with £178bn investment in equipment, means for the UK. It will ensure our essential RAF transport aircraft are prepared for operations for years to come.”

The Hercules had been set for retirement in 2022 but last month’s strategic defense and security review (SDSR) revealed they would be given a new lease of life as part of the plan to “recapitalize” the RAF’s air transport fleet to enable UK forces to “intervene globally at speed”.

The RAF currently operates a fleet of 24 Hercules aircraft. Under the new contract, by 2025 there will be 14 of the aircraft in service, with the other 10 being decommissioned in 2016 and 2017.

Privately-owned Marshall is a specialist in the Hercules and was the first company to be permitted by Lockheed to do heavy maintenance on the aircraft.

The current J-model Hercules - which entered service with the RAF 15 years ago - has seen action around the world, due to their ability to carry 100 troops or 20 tons of cargo up to 2,000 miles.

As the role of the Armed Forces has widened, they have also been involved in humanitarian work, most recently in Iraq, Nepal and South Sudan.

It is understood that Special Forces units campaigned for the Hercules to remain in service, preferring the aircraft to the larger Airbus A400M, which is starting to enter service with the RAF.

The Hercules is thought to be more capable of operating undetected behind enemy lines, and its smaller size makes it easier to land on rough surfaces than the A400M.

Adrian Baguley, director of defense equipment and support at the MoD’s procurement and support organization, said: “This new deal for UK C130J Hercules support builds upon improved performance at a lower cost that will deliver strategic and tactical air transport capability and excellent value for UK defense.”

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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