It appears that the Portuguese Air Force (FAP – Força Aérea Portuguesa) has three C-130H Hercules transport aircraft, intended to be replaced by the new KC-390 manufactured in Brazil by Embraer, available for sale to Greece.
By Savvas D. Vlassis
According to reliable information, Greece is one of the potential recipients of the Portuguese Hercules, as the sale of the 3 transports has already been proposed, with the offer at this stage pending for examination by the Greek side at a preliminary level.
These aircraft are offered by Lisbon on the grounds that they are the same version as the Hellenic Air Force C-130Hs and in this sense could boost the 356 Transport Squadron fleet, which has been known to have been gradually reduced over the last 10 years.
This decrease is due to the limited availability, due to the problems and delays in their factory maintenance process by Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI).
Consequently, the Portuguese proposal could, in theory, be an intermediate solution for the HAF which, as the former Chief of HAF staff and current Armed Forces chief, General Christos Christodoulou had already announced, are seeking long-term conditions – and as soon as possible – the radical upgrade of the C-130 fleet from the C-130J model.
Returning to the Portuguese C-130H, we note that they have been operating with the FAP since 1977 with 501 Squadron “Bisontes” (Bisons). Today, they operate 5 C-130Hs. Interestingly, a few months ago the Portuguese company OGMA Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal announced that it was launching a partial fleet upgrade program with electronic systems. The cost of the program was reported to be € 15.5 million, with work expected to take place between 2019 and 2020.
It has not yet been clarified whether the aircraft offered for sale to Greece have undergone the modernization program or remain in their original configuration for four decades with FAP.
However, it is assumed that there will be variations in the configuration of the C-130H Hercules of the HAF, which have undergone modernization under the Canadian Spar Aerospace AUP (Aviation Upgrade Program) program.
The solution of the Portuguese C-130 could be a possible “breath” for the HAF. However, provided that these aircraft are judged to be capable of satisfactory number of flight hours until their life expectancy is reached.
It remains questionable, as we have said, whether the aircraft offered have been upgraded or remain in the original configuration as delivered in 1977, which will affect their suitability for acquisition by the HAF.
In any case, it is up to the HAF to assess the proposal properly, which will also have to determine the future shape of the air transport fleet.