The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received its first upgraded Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules at RAAF Base Richmond.

Lockheed Martin upgraded the Hercules in the US supported by the US Air Force.

Hercules has been modified to Block 8.1 standard hardware and software.

As part of the Block 8.1 system upgrade, safety improvements to the aircraft intended for RAAF’s No. 37 Squadron aviators were also carried out.

The aircraft’s navigation systems were also modified to improve precision when landing or conducting cargo drops.

In addition, Block 8.1 will help the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules fleet remain in line with the latest worldwide air traffic management guidelines.

It also enables the integration of improved friend-or-foe identification systems for coalition operations.

Airbus Australia Pacific will upgrade the RAAF’s remaining 11 C-130J Hercules aircraft at Richmond.

The company has already started Block 8.1 standard upgrade work on the first of these jets.

RAAF Air Lift Systems Programme Office commanding officer James Badgery said: “Block 8.1 will make it easier for crews to operate the Hercules in a range of complicated environments, from civilian airspace around airports through to airfields on the frontline.

“Hercules’ crews have often been first on the scene during times of crisis, evidenced by the support delivered during the Kabul Airlift in August, and Block 8.1 will ensure the fleet can continue flying these operations safely.

“Airbus Australia Pacific has already commenced the first local upgrade of an aircraft to Block 8.1 standard at Richmond, and the remaining fleet will be modified as they become due for major scheduled servicing.”

In 1999, the RAAF added 12 C-130J Hercules to its fleet. The Hercules can carry roughly 120 passengers or up to 20t of cargo.

In November last year, the RAAF officially retired its F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet after more than 30 years of service.