The U.S. State Department has given the go-ahead for the potential sale of five Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), setting in motion the replacement program for its C-130H that began sometime in 2015. The whole project is worth $1.4 billion.
According to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency release, the program will include a comprehensive avionics and electronic countermeasures suite, including Multi-Information Distribution System (MIDS)/Link-16 Low Video Terminal (LVT)-BU2, AN/AAQ-24(V)N LAIRCM (Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures), AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System (MWS); eight AN/APN-241 Low Power Color Radars; eight AN/ALR-56M Missile Warning System Receivers, and L3 Wescam MX-20HD Electro-Optical/Infrared Imaging System, among others.
The RNZAF announced in June this year that the C-130J was the “preferred replacement” for its five C-130Hs, three of which were acquired in 1965 and the remaining pair in 1968. Its preference for the Super Hercules comes as little surprise, as it usually takes reference from its closest military ally, Australia, for interoperability reasons. The Royal Australian Air Force flies 12 C-130Js.
Embraer offered the C-390 to the RNZAF as a C-130H replacement, and also to provide a maritime patrol capability, but the C-130J was selected for its "range, payload and as a proven platform", according to defense minister Ron Mark.
A few days after the June announcement, the government revealed that all five C-130Hs were unserviceable, although only for a short 24-hour period. The RNZAF’s Hercules last received a mid-life upgrade between 2008 and 2017 that saw the integration of “glass” cockpit, re-wiring, center wing refurbishment, and component upgrades.