France Acquires C-130Js as Part of a New Franco-German Squadron

1/31/18: In a deal made prior to President Maron becoming President, France and Germany agreed to join forces and share costs of the new squadron.

There will be 4 C130Js on the French side to be acquired by 2019 and 6 on the German side after the Bundestag’s expected green light in 2019.

The IOC (Initial operational Capability) is planned for 2021 and the FOC (Full Operational Capability) by 2024.

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In a recent piece by Murielle Delaporte published on Breaking Defense, the acquisition of the aircraft and its importance is highlighted.

To some French observers, purchasing American military transport aircrafts seems like heresy.

It’s an admission of failure of the A400M European adventure, many argue.

But this nascent fleet of C130Js is really the stepping stone towards a new Franco-German bilateral unit (some refers to it as a squadron) to be based in 2021 at FAB Evreux and symbolizes the drive towards the dream of a true European defense both French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel aspire to.

It also marks one of the fastest major military acquisition in French history. 

Barely two years passed between approval of the actual FMS contract in January 2016 and the delivery of the first C-130J-30 to France last December at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Ga.

The contract includes support, spares and a two-year maintenance program, as well as training in the US centers consisting in 10-month periods for pilots ad loadmasters, and two to three month periods for non-flying staff.

The training for loadmasters is especially important, as, the same way than on A400M,  that profession is changing while taking over more responsibilities in flight.

This move was decided with the signing of a pooling and sharing agreement by former French minister of defense Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen in April 2016 (hence before Emmanuel Macron became president last June); it was then reinforced with a bilateral cooperation agreement signed between Maj. Gen. Philippe Coindreau and Vice Chief of Defence Vice Adm. Joachim Ruhle in October 2017.

Concretely, the deal is for both nations to join forces and share costs, i.e. respectively 4 C130Js on the French side to be acquired by 2019 and 6 on the German side consequently to the Bundestag’s expected green light in 2019.

First C-130J for the French Air Force, October 2017. Credit Lockheed Martin.

The IOC (Initial Operational Capability) is planned for 2021 and the FOC (Full Operational Capability) for 2024….

Having several assets with different strong points is actually a bonus in military planning as it offers more options at a time when allied armed forces are especially in demand on very harsh territories.

For the French Air Force, which has been operating for several years in the Sahara-Sahelien region (with the Barkhane Operation) and over Syria and Irak against terrorist groups (with the Chammal Operation), the A400M, which can carry 30 tons in 6 hours on a flight between Orléans and N’Djamena in Chad, the C-130H-30, which can carry 7 tons in 8 hours, and the C-130J-30, which can carry 10.5 tons in 7 hours, are all complementary.

They offer self-deployable and self-sustainable assets which France can use on its own or within a coalition of allies, such as Germany and the United States.

This piece is the initial launch of a new focus of Breaking Defense as well

With this article we begin regular coverage of the French military, NATO and a wide variety of European defense issues by Murielle Delaporte, a deeply experienced and knowledgeable expert on French strategy and acquisition.

Murielle, who travels regularly between Washington and Paris and to the traditional haunts of the French military, is editor of Opérationnels, a French-language defense magazine.

This marks the beginning of a measured but marked expansion of Breaking Defense’s coverage of the US and foreign militaries. Read on! The Editor.

New French C-130J Not A Blow To Europe’s A400M

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