Towards the end of June the U.S. Navy announced that it had signed a contract to buy a Lockheed Martin C-130J from the UK Ministry of Defence for $29.7 million. The aircraft will be used by the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron—the "Blue Angels”—as a logistics support aircraft.
The aircraft is due for delivery in spring 2020 and is being procured with funds generated by proceeds from Foreign Military Sales programs. The deal saves the U.S. Department of Defense around $50 million compared with the cost of buying a new-build aircraft. The acquisition of an ex-Royal Air Force aircraft received congressional approval in March 2018.
“This is a win-win for the U.S. Navy and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence,” said Captain Steven Nassau, PMA-207 program manager. “Just as the Navy recognized the imminent need to replace the “Fat Albert” aircraft, the UK MOD was divesting of an American-made C-130J aircraft, allowing us to acquire a suitable replacement aircraft at a major cost saving.”
Prior to delivery to the U.S. Navy the aircraft will undergo maintenance and some minor modifications to adapt it for its new role, as well as receive the iconic Blue Angels color scheme. This work has been contracted to Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group at Cambridge in the UK.
The display team has used a C-130 for transporting equipment, spares, and support personnel since 1970, replacing a Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation. For many years the aircraft has also flown a routine of its own as part of the overall display, including a demonstration of a rocket-assisted takeoff.
The most recent dedicated “Fat Albert” airframe, a C-130T (BuNo. 164763), was retired in May 2019 and is now located in Fort Worth, Texas, where it serves as a ground-based training platform. Until the new aircraft is ready for duty, the team will borrow C-130s from regular Navy or Marine Corps units as required.
The “new” Hercules completes the plans for a team equipment overhaul, which involves the current F/A-18C/D Hornets giving way to Super Hornets in 2021/22.
*updated July 5, 2019