Dutch Ministry of Defense Chooses New Successor for Iconic C-130 Hercules

An Embraer C390 takes off in a cloud of red dust.
Photo Credit: Embraer

LONDON – The Dutch Ministry of Defense has chosen the successor plane for the very iconic C-130 Hercules. The successor will be the Embraer C-390M and the deliveries will start in 2026.

New demands

The Dutch Air Force currently owns 4 Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport planes, but they are starting to reach the end of their lifespan. For that reason, the Ministry of Defense has sought to choose a new successor for them.

Since 2020, there have been 2 candidates – namely the Airbus A400M and the C-130J Super Hercules.

While the government has looked into the possibility of adding the Embraer C-390M and the Kawasaki C-2, there wasn’t a lot of hope for them, mainly as the C-390 didn’t fulfill the government’s requirements of range.

After a lot of investigations into the successor – the failed evacuation attempt at Afghanistan in 2021, and the drastically changing situation in eastern Europe – the Dutch government decided to go for the Embraer for its higher and faster output, and lower maintenance-related cost/time spent on maintaining the aircraft.

Photos: RNAF C130 at Cambridge. Photo Credit: Thomas Saunders/AviationSource

The Air Force originally intended to order 4 planes, but seeing as they want to have a higher utilization per plane, from the originally 2400 hours to the new 4000 hours a year, the government decided to order 1 more, totaling 5 Embraer C-390 transport planes.

There may be a small possibility, but that’s just speculation, that the government may try to order a few C-130J’s. Neighboring countries such as Germany, France, and the UK, already own a couple of Super Hercules as well as the Airbus A400M Atlas, as the Atlas may be a bit too big or overpowered for some operations.

Because the Air Force wants to make more hours with more planes, they will obviously have to spend more money. It was estimated that the initial costs were between €250 million to €1 billion, but with the additional planes, it is expected that it’ll cost between €1 billion and €2.5 billion.

Embraer commented on the press release with the following statement:

“Embraer is honored by the Netherlands Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) decision to select the multi-mission transport aircraft C-390 Millennium.”

“Acknowledging that there is still great work to be done in the coming months, we are committed to the success of this new phase of cooperation with the Netherlands Ministry of Defense. In this process, Embraer is dedicated to further deepening collaboration with local industry and knowledge centers.”

Interesting choice

The government sure took an interesting choice for a new transport plane. Considering the position The Netherlands is in, they could have gone for the more obvious choice and kept the costs low by sticking with the Hercules.

The other fact that makes this more interesting is that the design of the C-390, together with the Kawasaki C-2, has an unorthodox design with its high-wing and anhedral slope.

Honestly, if it was up to me, the Kawasaki C-2 would be the best choice as the successor of the Hercules. The biggest reason would be that the plane is not used outside of Japan.

That alone, and the fact that the plane already matches the operational requirements, would be a very interesting opportunity to be the first foreign nation to use the plane. The design of the C-2 looks almost the same as the C-390, although the C-2 would be the more “scaled-up” version compared to the Embraer.

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