Australia buys 20 C-130J Hercules, but government vague on industry benefit


The federal government has announced a massive new order for 20 new C-130J Hercules aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force, but worryingly failed to define Australian industry benefits in the announcement.

Defence minister Richard Marles and Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy revealed the $9.8 billion in spending with Lockheed Martin but were vague about local industry orders.

They said in a statement: “There will be significant benefits for Australian industry from the expanded fleet size, with opportunities to construct facilities and infrastructure and to sustain the aircraft.”

Conroy’s elaboration was similarly vague: “Having 20 aircraft, up from 12, will mean more opportunities for local industry to sustain the aircraft, creating more Australian jobs.

“There’ll also be jobs associated with infrastructure redevelopments at RAAF Base Richmond.”

There was no word of opportunity for manufacturers such as Sydney composites manufacturer Quickstep which has supplied 200 shipsets of wing flaps for the C-130J.

Quickstep has a contract to supply wing flaps for the C-130J until December 2024 valued at $86.5 million.

In April the company said it had negotiated a follow on contract until 2029, however no formal contract has been signed.

Lockheed similarly failed to mention whether any direct orders would be placed with Australian aviation manufacturers.

Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand Warren McDonald said: “Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand congratulates Defence on its commitment to procure a new and expanded C-130J fleet. These aircraft will add to the 65-year legacy of continuous C-130 operations by Australia.”

“The C-130J has proven its ability to meet all of Australia’s medium air mobility requirements and is an excellent choice to support operations in Northern Australia, the importance of which was highlighted in the Defence Strategic Review.”

Lockheed Martin has significant involvement with Australian suppliers through orders placed for parts for the F-35 fighter jet, including the complex twin tails of the aircraft, as well as with Quickstep for the C-130J.

However with such a massive order and increase in the RAAF’s fleet size, and with talk in the US and Australia about deepening the inter relationship of the two countries’ defence industry supply chains, one would have hoped to see Australian manufacturers offered something more than building infrastructure and undefined maintenance services.

The new acquisitions are expected to be from late 2027and used for the deployment of personnel, equipment and humanitarian supplies. The aircraft is also used in search and rescue missions, disaster relief and medical evacuation.

The C-130J has been involved in operations in Bougainville and Timor-Leste, and in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Further reading:
Quickstep reaches binding terms for C-130J follow-on contract worth up to $96 million
Quickstep in herculean aerospace milestone – video

Picture: Defence/LAC John Solomon/C-130J Hercules

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