Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Super Hercules Aircraft Completes Maiden Flight Test

C-130J Super Hercules. Photo: New Zealand Ministry of Defence

New Zealand’s first C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft has conducted its initial flight test in the US.

The demonstration saw the vehicle fly for 246 minutes over Georgia and Alabama. It achieved a range of approximately 990 kilometers (615 miles) and an altitude of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters).

The demonstration followed the 18-month construction of the platform under American defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The contract for the project was signed in 2019 under a foreign military sale with the US government.

The procurement, valued at $1.4 billion, stipulated five C-130Js, corresponding engines, spare parts, avionics, and communication systems.

The US will begin shipping the fleet later this year, during which they will gradually replace New Zealand’s aging C-130H Hercules systems, in service for over five decades.

Similar to its older versions, the Super Hercules platforms will be stationed at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland and operated by the agency’s No. 40 Squadron.

“The iconic C-130H has been a fantastic aircraft for us for a very long time, across a huge range of tasks and environments,” Air Force Chief Air Vice-Marshal Darryn Webb stated.

“The C-130J will deliver everything that its predecessor does, and more – it has greater range, speed and capacity. It is a proven performer flown by many Air Forces, starting with the Royal Australian Air Force, which will enhance our interoperability with our closest Defence partner.”

“These new aircraft take us another step towards honing the modern Air Force as combat-capable, deployable and sustainable.”

New Zealand completed the initial construction phase of a flight simulator to train future C-130J pilots in Auckland last year.

In 2022, Lockheed Martin received a $38-million contract to supply a separate system that will prepare C-130J operators with the aircraft’s weapon systems.

The C-130J Super Hercules measures 34 meters (112 feet) and has a wingspan of 40 meters (131 feet).

It is powered by 6-bladed propellers and four 4,637-horsepower turboprop engines for a maximum speed of 362 knots (670 kilometers/417 miles per hour) and up to 40,386 feet (12,310 meters) of altitude.

The aircraft is operated by three personnel and can carry up to 92 passengers.

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