Royal Air Force bids farewell to the C-130J Hercules with commemorative flight

A C-130 Hercules view from the front.
Photo Credit: Lewis Chesworth/AviationSource

This week, a poignant moment was reached in the UK and within the Royal Air Force as the Air Force performed the farewell flight for the long standing C-130J Hercules on Wednesday 14 June.

The aircraft has served within the Royal Air Force for nearly 57 years and has been a backbone for the wider operations of the RAF across the world.

The first C-130s entered the RAF fleet back in 1966 and were initially assigned to the 242 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) based out of RAF Thorney Island.

Nowadays the aircraft flies for Number 47 squadron based out of RAF Brize Norton, however it has also flown for No. 24, No. 206 and No. 70 squadrons.

Over the last 56 years the Air Force has operated multiple variants of C130s including the Hercules C.1 and C.3 (which have now been replaced by the Airbus A400M Atlas).

Photo Credit: Royal Air Force

Currently, the RAF operates the Hercules C.4 and C.5, which are the RAF designators for the C130-J-30 and C130J Hercules respectively.

To commemorate the end of the line for the C130 or more colloquially known as the “Herc” the RAF applied a special decal to the tail of ZH870, one of the last remaining Hercs in the fleet.

The tail shows the RAF roundel paired with a “56 years” in bold writing with 1966-2023 written underneath.

Rather interestingly, the decal applied to ZH870 has received its fair share of back lash, with people claiming that little to no effort has been made to honour the long standing life the C130 has had with the RAF and the crucial role it has played.

Video Footage: RAF Museum

A Farewell flight flown

Image Credit: Royal Air Force

To commemorate the the history and service of the C-130 Hercules within the RAF, the Air Force put on a special farewell flight that would tour the nation visiting many parts of the UK.

In total, three C-130s would take to the skies and fly around in formation, including the special tail ZH870 leading the formation.

Playback data from Flight Radar 24 shows that all 3 C-130s departed RAF Brize Norton in quick succession at exactly 10:00am local time as OMEN1, 2 and 3, before heading north west for a low level run through the world famous Mach Loop.

From there, the Herc’s travelled to RAF Valley home to where fast jet pilots are trained, before heading to Northern Ireland, where they overflew Belfast International Airport.

The aircraft then headed for Northern Scotland where a flyover of RAF Lossiemouth was conducted, home to the Northern QRA base of RAF Typhoons. Then it was back down south where a low level run through the Lake District was conducted.

Next it was on to Lincolnshire, where the Hercs overflew RAF Waddington, now famously known to be the home of the Red Arrows since October 2022, before a quick hop down to RAF Cranwell.

The flight of Herc’s then continued to Cambridge, where the first Herc was delivered to and then to RAF Mildenhall, home to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing (ARW) of the US Air Force (USAF).

Following this, they flew to Colchester Army Barracks, then the white cliffs of Dover and along the south coast of England.

Once over Bournemouth the aircraft headed north where they then eventually landed at RAF Fairford round the corner from Brize Norton.

In total, the flight took a whopping 7hours and 21 minutes.

Replaced by the A400

Photo Credit: Lewis Chesworth/AviationSource

With the C-130J now due to leave the fleet on the 30th of June this year, the Air Force will now turn to its fleet of 22 Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft.

Just recently, the RAF completed its deliveries of all the A400s on order with ZM421 landing at RAF Brize Norton from Seville on the 22nd of May 2023.

The A400M is a more modern and efficient aircraft compared to the C-130J and is able to perform a like for like role that the C130 has been able to perform.

The aircraft also shares many capabilities with that of the C-130J Hercules, such as dirt runway operations, short and takeoff and landing operations and more.

Although this is a sad moment for aviation enthusiasts and the Royal Air Force, all good things must come to an end in cases like these.

By Lewis Chesworth 6 Min Read
6 Min Read
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