After nearly sixty years, one of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130H Hercules aircraft gets a well-deserved retirement. The first of RNZAF five C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft made its final flight yesterday, departing RNZAF Base Auckland and landing at Base Woodbourne to be retired. Operated by No. 40 Squadron, the tactical transport plane has flown missions around the world, from the Middle East to Antarctica and all places in between. NZ7003 was one of three C-130H Hercules to arrive in New Zealand in 1965, with the remaining two arriving in 1969. The aircraft has provided strategic airlift (inter-theatre) and tactical airlift (intra-theatre) as well as participating in numerous international operations and exercises.
It has been involved in countless humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions delivering much-needed aid following natural disasters, transporting vital military equipment and aid to multiple countries, most recently Ukraine, and hundreds of flights to the Antarctic carrying scientists and equipment for essential research to the frozen continent. The aircraft received a number of modifications and upgrades with the most recent being a Life Extension Programme (LEP) that started in 2005. This involved an extensive avionics upgrade of the flight deck and structural refurbishment. On 5 June 2020 the Government announced that a fleet of five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules would replace the C-130H(NZ) aircraft, with deliveries scheduled to commence in 2024.
The C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft provides strategic airlift and tactical airlift (intra-theatre) as well as participating in international training exercises. Tasks are flown in support of combat, peace-keeping and humanitarian relief operations. Missons include passenger and cargo movement, aero-medical evacuation, support to Antarctica New Zealand and special operations. The agility of the C-130H(NZ) Hercules aircraft means it can be seen operating in the cold of Antarctica one week and the heat of the tropics the next. The aircraft have received a number of modifications and upgrades with the most recent being a Life Extension Programme (LEP) that started in 2005.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is an American four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built by Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin). The versatile airframe has found uses in other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol, and aerial firefighting. It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. More than 40 variants of the Hercules, including civilian versions marketed as the Lockheed L-100, operate in more than 60 nations. The C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft at more than 60 years, with the updated Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules currently being produced.