Germany has signalled its intention to acquire as many as six Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports as its frustrations deepen with the underperforming Airbus Defence & Space A400M.
As part of a memorandum of understanding with France, signed by the defence ministers from both countries, the Hercules would be part of a “common air transport squadron” to be created by 2021.
“According to current demand forecasts, four to six German aircraft in the common transport squadron are planned,” says the country’s defence ministry, which would station the C-130J fleet in France.
A bilateral working group will now be set up with the aim of fleshing out the proposal by year-end.
The move is likely to be seen as a fresh rebuke for Airbus over the A400M by another of the programme’s launch partners.
Berlin has 53 examples of the Atlas on order to replace its fleet of ageing C160 Transalls, but performance shortfalls – notably the lack of in-flight helicopter refuelling capability – appear to have pushed it towards an acquisition of the US-built type.
If it eventually signs for the C-130Js it would be following its partner’s lead; France confirmed a deal earlier this year for four Hercules, comprising two KC-130J tankers and two transports.