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RAAF looks to double cargo fleet with $10 billion US deal to replace ageing Hercules aircraft

Australia’s ageing fleet of American-made military cargo aircraft will be replaced and doubled in number under a $10 billion deal approved by the United States. 

The US State Department has approved the “possible foreign military sale” of 24 C-130J-30 planes and related equipment, which would replace the RAAF’s existing fleet of 12 Hercules aircraft.

Approval of the $10 billion Australian purchase without a formal tender comes despite an ongoing review of all significant military spending ordered by the federal government.

The Defence Strategic Review was launched in September and its interim findings are due to be handed to Defence Minister Richard Marles shortly.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirmed.

“Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific,” the DSCA statement added.

The RAAF took delivery of its first iconic Lockheed Martin-made C-130 Hercules back in 1958, with Australia’s current fleet entering service more than 20 years ago.

“The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region,” the DSCA said.

“It is vital to the US national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”

Earlier this week, the Defence Department foreshadowed the $10 billion deal with Lockheed Martin by insisting it had thoroughly examined other international options for replacing the ageing C-130 fleet.

“Defence has identified that the new C-130J aircraft represents the only option that meets all of Australia’s capability requirements and assures Defence’s medium air mobility capability without introducing substantial cost, schedule and capability risk”.

In 2021, Lockheed Martin re-signed a multi-year deal with Sydney based defence company Quickstep to produce wing flaps for its international C-130J production supply chain.

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