SAAF mulls upgrading aging Hercules fleet to boost availability

The South African military is looking at options to upgrade it’s aging C-130BZ Hercules transporters which are plagued by availability issues.

South Africa’s Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, explains that a Required Operational Capability (ROC) is in process for the upgrade of the current C-130 fleet.

Upgrading the Hercules fleet will come at a cost of R1.6 billion.


Alternatively, the US Embassy Office of Defence Co-operation (ODC) offered through a letter, Hercules C-130H models through the excess defence articles (EDA) programme to the Chief of the South African National Defence Force.

The American aircraft will come at R228 million per aircraft and would be able to serve until 2028, while in the interim, the SAAF will simultaneously upgrade the current fleet of five aircraft for R1.6 billion, allowing them to serve until 2040.

However, to save valuable forex and local technical skills, the SAAF will upgrade and return to service six aircraft currently in 28 Squadron’s inventory at an estimated cost of R1.6 billion. This would enable the C-130BZs to remain airworthy until 2040.

Minister Thandi Modise further stated that South Africa has been approached by the UK High Commission about potentially acquiring used C-130s available, but this is unlikely to happen because of a lack of budgeted funds for the acquisition of the assets.

However, any new requirement will be satisfied through an open bid process” depending on the user requirement statement.

The South African air force faced with aircraft serviceability and availability issues due to constrained funding. This has been negatively affecting it’s flying hours.

This was revealed during a progress report from the Department of Defence (DoD) presented at a Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting on 18 August, 2021.

“Constrained funding is also affecting the ability to provide enough serviceable aircraft, although serious efforts are being made to ensure availability is increased within the reduced budget,” the Committee heard, after expressing concern about the fact that the SA Air Force is not able to meet its flying hour targets.

In 2020, a South African Air Force (SAAF) C-130BZ Hercules suffered a nose wheel collapse at AFB Waterkloof. The C-130BZ Hercules (405) was preparing for another test-flight before the nose wheel unintentionally retracted when the number 2 engine was started.

Denel was readying Hercules 405 to replace Hercules 403 that ran off the runway in the Democratic Republic of Congo in January this year.

The SAAF stripped out and dismantled the Hercules aircraft that veered off the runway at Goma, DRC.

The salvaged usable parts was distributed around the remaining SAAF C-130BZ fleet as needed.

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