IN A surprise move, US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) recently announced its intention to negotiate and award a sole source contract to the UK Ministry of Defence to procure a single C-130J Super Hercules to support the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. The proposed acquisition was first revealed on March 23 in a NAVAIR posting on the US Government’s Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website.
Part of NAVAIR’s formal statement in the FBO posting read: “The Government requires a suitable replacement aircraft, which must be delivered in an expeditious manner, to avoid a gap in logistical support of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. The aircraft being procured from the UK MOD has the requisite amount of life and technical capability to support the Blue Angels mission. Procurement of a comparable replacement C-130J from any source other than the UK MOD would create an unacceptable increase in programme cost and delay in fielding this critical capability.”
The Blue Angels has an urgent need to replace is current support aircraft, C-130T 164763, which it has not been able to use due to a grounding order on the US Navy’s C-130T/KC-130T fleet. This has been in place for the last eight months, following the crash of US Marine Corps KC-130T 165000 on July 10, 2017, in Mississippi, which killed all 16 on board. The RAF has been operating both stretched C-130J-30 Hercules C4s and short fuselage C-130J Hercules C5s, but is in the process of retiring the latter variant, several of which have already been withdrawn from use and placed in storage with Marshall Aerospace at Cambridge. It is expected that it will be one of the Hercules C5s that will be purchased for the Blue Angels.