On 22 December 2017, the 2/61 "Franche-Comté" Transport Squadron, located on the BA-123 of Orléans-Bricy, took delivery of the first C-130J-30 aircraft, the stretched version of the C-130J Super HERCULES.
In a context where the commitment of the French Air Force requires significant means of intra-theater mobility and after the withdrawal of the service of the last C-160 TRANSALL in 2023, the C-130 fleet will represent the only median transport capacity between the Airbus A400M and the C-235.
With a potential service life of 40 years, the C-130J will provide a response to this operational pressure, notably by offering a new in-flight refueling capability for helicopters with the KC-130J version.
According to Lockheed Martin, the C-130 fleet is, "today the only one to guarantee the mobility of the special forces of the three services, and to rapidly acquire the helicopter flight rescue capability, which is essential to ensure that the air force’s EC725 CARACAL helicopters can fully carry out their Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission."
In the short term, it will make it possible to meet operational requirements, and in the long term to have more modern aircraft that are suited to the missions of the French Armed Forces.
A second C-130J-30 will be delivered in 2018, while two KC-130Js with air-to-air refueling capability are expected in 2019 on the BA-123 at Orléans-Bricy. Their transfer to the BA 105 Evreux is, meanwhile, scheduled for 2021.
When France’s four C-130Js move to Evreux air base in 2021, they will join six similar aircraft being procured by Germany, and all ten will be operated by a joint, binational squadron manned by personnel from both countries.