New Zealand Defence Minister Judith Collins announced the inaugural flights of the country’s first C-130J Hercules. The culmination of testing over Georgia and Alabama spanned 246 minutes and covered 984km.

New Zealand signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to acquire five C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft for $892.6m (NZ$1.4bn) in 2020. New Zealand selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. The C-130J can carry a greater payload, is faster, and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft, according to GlobalData’s intelligence on the New Zealand defence market

The C-130J Hercules promises a shift in operational efficiency and versatility for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). With a top speed of 330 knots and a wingspan of 40.41 metres, these aircraft are poised to improve the RNZAF’s aerial mobility.

Minister Collins underscored the role of these aircraft in facilitating collaboration with key international partners, “The Hercules ensure we are interoperable with our key partners, including our ally, Australia, and the United States, Canada, Germany and France. In an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, it is hugely important that we can work with international partners in a collaborative way on international operations and joint training exercises and engagements.”

In recent years, Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft have become popular globally, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. The Royal Australian Air Force received its first upgraded C-130J Super Hercules in 2022. Meanwhile, the Philippines and Indonesia are improving their airlift capabilities with acquisitions of three C-130J-30 Super Hercules each. Additionally, Norway has welcomed advanced C-130J-30 Super Hercules upgrades. 

The advent of the C-130J Hercules is a testament to New Zealand’s commitment to humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts. For more than 50 years, the RNZAF has been at the vanguard of international relief operations, and the arrival of these aircraft reaffirms the country’s resolve.

Scheduled to commence deployment later in 2024, the fleet of C-130J Hercules will be stationed at RNZAF Base Auckland. This fleet will be operated by the No. 40 Squadron within the New Zealand Defence Force.