Above: Blue Angels pilots stand in front of their new ‘Fat Albert’ C-130J Hercules C5, 170000, at Cambridge Airport earlier today, looking smart in its new paint scheme, which differs slightly from that worn by the previous C-130T support aircraft. The flight surfaces now have yellow tips similar to the team’s Hornets, two stripes run down the side of the aircraft and the white top that ran down the full length of the fuselage has been modified to a tear drop design running from the nose to the wing leading edge. Marshall Aerospace
MARSHALL AEROSPACE and Defence Group (MADG) released the first photograph today of the US Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron’s new ‘Fat Albert’ support aircraft, former Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules C5 ZH885, now resplendent in the team’s colours and with new US Navy serial 170000. The image, taken in the UK on the ramp outside MADG’s facility at Cambridge Airport, Cambridgeshire, shows the aircraft with three of the team’s pilots, who have just arrived in Cambridge. They will carry out a series of maintenance tests, which include an aircraft systems operational check out and a functional check flight prior to the transatlantic flight to deliver the aircraft to the USA in a few weeks time, before joining the Blue Angels.
After being retired by the RAF, on January 5, 2018, the aircraft had been flown to Cambridge where it was placed in storage to await its fate. As previously reported on Warnesy’s World, on March 23, 2018, US Naval Air Systems had announced its intention to negotiate and award a sole source contract to the UK Ministry of Defence to procure a single C-130J for the Blue Angels to replace the C-130T previously used as a support aircraft. A firm contract was reportedly signed in June 2019 and ZH885 was the airframe selected to meet the requirement. MADG was given the task of refurbishing the airframe, repainting it and preparing it for delivery. This C-130J model will provide improved logistics support and eventually join the Blue Angels demonstration.
As we have already reported, the previous support aircraft, C-130T 164763, was retired on May 23, 2019. Since then there has been no dedicated support aircraft for the team, with logistics being provided by various other aircraft in the interim, pending delivery of the ‘new’ C-130J. Aircrew have already been undergoing conversion training from the C-130T to C-130J, including simulator training and a low-level proficiency training flight, with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR 234) at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.