The RAF could soon retire the C-130J and replacing it with the A400M - A move that would put SAS soldiers at risk

RAF to bid farewell to the Mighty Hercules with a flypast that will take place across all four nations of the UK

By Dario Leone
Jun 12 2023
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RAF to bid farewell to the Mighty Hercules

The Royal Air Force (RAF) history as an operator of the Lockheed Martin C-130 airlifter will all but come to an end on Jun. 14, 2023 when the service performs its final mission with the iconic Hercules.

According to a RAF news release, on that day a flypast to mark the forthcoming retirement of the C-130J Hercules from RAF service will take place across all four nations of the UK.

Details of the planned routing and timings by the three aircraft that will take part in the flypast can be found below and cover locations of significance to the Hercules’ service and 47 Squadron.

The first Hercules arrived at Marshall’s of Cambridge in December 1966 Hercules. Since entering RAF service, originally with 242 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Thorney Island, it has operated across the globe in support of UK military and humanitarian relief operations.

RAF to bid farewell to the Mighty Hercules with a flypast that will take place across all four nations of the UK

The transition to the 22-strong Atlas (A400) fleet and other air mobility aircraft has been ongoing for some time. 47 Squadron and the Hercules will continue to deliver on operations supporting UK defence objectives until 30 Jun 23.

The C-130 in the Royal Air Force

The Hercules has been the RAF’s primary tactical transport aircraft and in its current C.Mk 4 and C.Mk 5 versions of the C-130J-30 and C-130J, respectively, has been the backbone of UK operational tactical mobility tasks since it was brought into service in 1999. It is frequently employed to operate into countries or regions where there is a threat to aircraft; its performance, tactics and defensive systems make it the ideal platform for such tasks.

Since its first flight in 1954, the Hercules has been everywhere and done just about anything. Aircrews have flown it to both poles, landed or airdropped military supplies to hot spots from Vietnam to Afghanistan and performed countless relief operations around the globe. The Hercules has been used to drop bombs, retrieve satellites in midair, conduct reconnaissance, support special operations forces and attack ground targets with cannons. Some models are flown as commercial transports. The C-130 has the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history and one of the top three longest, continuous aircraft production lines of any type.

Defence officials announced in 2021’s Integrated Review that the 15-strong C-130J fleet would be retired by 2023 due to cost savings, with operations transitioning to the Airbus A400M. That date was subsequently extended until end-June due to availability issues with the European type.

AC-130U Gunship print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. AC-130U Spooky II 1st SOW, 4th SOS, 88-0163

According to Flight Global, just six Hercules remain in RAF service.

The expertise acquired operating the Hercules and its broad range of capabilities will be transitioned across to the other flying platforms in RAF service. This includes Ground support staff (Engineers, Air Operations and Intelligence professions) who will be relocated to similar roles around the RAF.

Planned routing and timings of RAF farewell to the Hercules

1000 Depart RAF Brize Norton
1025 National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas
1034 RAF Cosford
1122 RAF Valley
1148 FS Aldergrove
1251 RAF Lossiemouth (with Typhoon escort)
1408 RAF Leeming
1410 RAF Topcliffe
1423 Beverley
1435 RAF Waddington
1438 RAF College Cranwell
1458 Cambridge Airport
1504 RAF Mildenhall
1515 Colchester Garrison
1622 MOD Boscombe Down
1625 Salisbury Plain (West Down Camp)
1632 MOD Lyneham
1636 Royal Wootton Bassett
1639 Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham
1643 Dalton Barracks, Abingdon
1651 RAF Halton
1655 RAF High Wycombe
1705 RAF Brize Norton

Photo credit: Jonny Williams from Llandudno, United Kingdom and Peng Chen via Wikipedia

RAF to bid farewell to the Mighty Hercules with a flypast that will take place across all four nations of the UK

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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