A planned mid-life upgrade for Sweden’s six-strong Lockheed Martin C-130H HERCULES transports could reduce the fleet by up to half at any given time, the air force has claimed, adding strain to the already modest fleet.
Speaking to media in Stockholm, Col. Magnus Liljegren, Head of the Air Force Department, said that under Sweden’s government bill defence review of 2015 that covered requirements for 2016-2020, it was mandated that the availability of the transport fleet be increased.
A mid-life upgrade for the C-130H transports has therefore been decided on, beginning as of 2020, although it has not been decided on which contractor will carry out the work. The fleet - one of which is a tanker - have carried out a combined 2,400 flight hours, and it is not yet known how long each upgrade will take.
“We are going for a mid-life update, and it may be up to 2024 before we are done,” Liljegren said. “That will effect us a lot not having that aircraft.”
The fleet is expected to remain in service until 2030-32 with the upgrade, Liljegren said, and details on what the upgrade will include have not yet been finalised.
“The question is up there as to whether or not it is worth it, but we have decided to go with it,” he added.
He noted that there are no plans to convert any more of the aircraft into a tanker configuration, which would mean the air force would be without this capability when that one example receives its upgrade.
“It’s always good to have, but I will also say that...if you have it [a tanker], you have to keep the pilots current, and that will cost a lot of time, so I’m not sure if that is a need,” Liljegren said. “It’s good to have, but it’s a question of affordability.”
The decision to keep the HERCULES fleet going into the 2030s comes as a blow to the prospect of Sweden acquiring Embraer’s KC-390 transport. Brazil is acquiring the Saab GRIPEN E fighter from Sweden, and it has often been touted that Stockholm could buy the KC-390 in return.
“As it is now, it is not on the table,” Liljegren said of the KC-390, claiming it was to do with financing.
Another strain to the C-130 fleet’s domestic duties will be the deployment of one example in support of the UN’s peacekeeping Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
The aircraft is due to deploy between November 2017 and May 2018, and it will be used to provide transport and air drop support.
“We are now planning for this contribution, and it will be with one aircraft and 60 personnel, who will fly aproximatley 100 hours per month,” Liljegren said. “Having not that many C-130, it will of course effect what we do back home."
“We are working very high on keeping the cooperation levels [with the UN] as high as possible,” he added.