Fat Albert retires from the RAF.

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Benevolens Magister
Aug 24, 2008
Cheshire, UK
After more than 55 years service, the C-130 Hercules fleet is to be retired by the RAF at the end of this month.
Today, 14th June, 2023, a four-ship formation of "Hercs" toured the length and breadth of the UK, flying over various RAF stations and other relevant sites, in a farewell gesture to this remarkable workhorse.
Although I had a sort of "love / hate" opinion of the aircraft, it was part of my life during the 1970's and, now that it's going , it's a little like losing a distant, semi-cantankerous relative.
Yes an Airbus................................An Airbus A400M Atlas to be exact and from what I have read it's a pack of poo tickets. Not well received or liked, its a maintenance nightmare and a very expensive lemon.
While the linked article points out the faults with A400M development it conveniently ignores the history of the development programme of the C-17 itself and the problems it encountered during the 1990s, including a redesign of the wings after they failed a strength test. During the course of that McDonnell Douglas and the Boeing have had to book substantial financial losses.

It also ignores the fact that the last C-17 was delivered back in 2019 after Boeing had built the last 10 before they had buyers for the aircraft. Such was the low demand for an aircraft with its capabilities in the world. Bottom line is that the C-17 is/was too big and was too expensive for most nations requirements.

As for the RAF C-17s, the initial 4 aircraft were not purchased to begin with. They were acquired on a 7 year lease, including support, at £100m per year, and with restrictions on their use with delivery in 2001. We then spent more money to buy them outright around 2008. We then acquired another pair in 2008 followed by the final pair in 2011 & 2012. And since 2008 we have been paying regularly for maintenance contracts. And we have also been spending on upgrades.

As for being able to buy a new C-130 today for £145m with support, my question would be how long is the support package for and exactly what does it cover?

As for the RAF C-130J, the RAF was a launch customer in 1994 around the same time that Britain was signing up for the A400M. The aircraft were delivered between 1998 and 2000 since when they have been ridden hard. They were due to receive new centre wing boxes, until defence cutbacks saw the project curtailed after only a handful had been upgraded.

So the RAF C-130J are worn out and need replaced/upgraded, C-17 is out of production and the money has already been spent on the A400M.

Edit:- note C-17 production ended in 2015 the last 5 delivered (4 in 2016 to Qatar and one to India in 2019) were "white tails" sitting on the ramp looking for a buyer. Probably represented a bargain!
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What EwanS said :) with the additional observation that the A400M is as justified as the Airbus A2xx and A3xx series of aircraft, or the Eurofighter, or the Gripen, etc.

If the EU and other countries wish to maintain the basis for an aircraft industry they need to have the skills and system/organization, and they need to actually design, build, and evolve the aircraft and system/organizations to achieve this. Not producing ~entire aircraft systems will prevent them from having said ability, leading to a single source for their wants/needs. We need only to look at the recent events re semi-conductors and oil products, along with the sanctions (re the effects on Russian external sourcing of many other bits and pieces of equipment, and their economy) to understand the folly of not having alternate providers.

Having said that, assuming the complaints are not another example of "the F35 is a pile of crap" syndrome, it does appear that there is reason to feel that Airbus dropped the ball in several areas involving the A400M.
I expect that Lockheed is working up an offset package offer that will spend more money in the UK on C-130J procurement than UK is getting from A-400M.

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