Belgium Begins C-130H Fleet Disposal Process

Above: Belgian Air Force C-130H Hercules CH-11 at Base Aérienne 105 Evreux, France, on June 6, wearing recently-applied invasion stripes to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  The aircraft participated in various parachute drops and flybys to mark the anniversary.  Belgium has now begun offering its C-130H fleet for sale prior to its replacement with the A400M.  Belgian AF/15 Wing PR/Adj Kristof Moens

BELGIUM HAS begun seeking potential customers for its fleet of nine remaining C-130H Hercules, which presently remain in operational service.  They are due to be replaced with new Airbus A400Ms, although delivery of the first of the latter is not due until May 2020.  An official request was issued on May 23 asking potential purchasers to register their interest in tendering for the aircraft, comprising serials CH-01, CH-03, CH-04, CH-05, CH-07, CH-09, CH-11, CH-12 and CH-13, along with related spare parts, tooling and support equipment.  The closing date for tender applications is 1000hrs on June 28. 

Belgium originally acquired 12 C-130Hs, which were delivered between July 1972 and April 1973, entering service with 15 Transport Wing/20 Squadron at Brussels-Melsbroek.  One (CH-06) was lost in a crash at Eindhoven on July 15, 1996, killing 34 of those on board and seriously injuring the other seven, while a second (CH-02) was damaged beyond repair in a hangar fire at Brussels Airport on May 5, 2006.  As an attrition replacement for the latter, an ex-US Air Force C-130E was purchased and brought up to C-130H standard before entering service in 2009 as CH-13.

Retirement of the fleet began on December 21, 2017, when CH-08 was withdrawn from service and flown from Melsbroek to Beauvechain for storage. A second aircraft, CH-10, made its final flight on December 20, 2018, and was retired at Melsbroek. The latter wears a smart special colour scheme celebrating 70 years of 15 Wing and 45 years of C-130 operations by 20 Squadron, but sadly will not be preserved.  By March 2019 its nose cone, wings and tail section had been removed and it was in use for training with the fire department at Melsbroek for training.  The tail has been fitted to another aircraft, CH-07.  

As C-130H operations continue to wind down, Belgium has ended its last major overseas deployment with the type.  A C-130H had been deployed to Bamako, Mali, since May 2018 to support Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali (MINUSMA – United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) operations.  This Belgian Tactical Air Detachment (BELTAD) was the last operational deployment of the Belgian Hercules, as the next major international transport aircraft deployment by Belgium will be with the A400M. 

The BELTAD mission formally ended on May 28, although the deployed C-130H had returned home earlier in the month.  It ceased MINUSMA operations on May 13, when responsibility was handed over to the Royal Norwegian Air Force, following which the Hercules arrived back at Melsbroek on May 17.  Some overseas operations will still be carried out with the C-130Hs, but they will no longer undertake any major deployments.

The Belgian C-130H detachment carried out 660 flights and completed over 790 flying hours, during which it carried 8,800 passengers and 1,620 tons of cargo over the 14 months of BELTAD operations in Mali.  There were seven rotations during the detachment, each with over 50 personnel, including a protection unit of 30 soldiers, providing security for the crew in and around the aircraft.  Primarily based at Bamako, destinations served included Gao, Mopti, Tessalit and Timbuktu, while the detachment also moved base to Gao on occasion.  The aircraft carried out air transport of personnel and equipment, along with medical evacuation flights.