France will purchase four C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to augment the French air force’s current tactical airlift and aerial refueling fleets, the defense ministry announced on Thursday. The foreign military sale will be split between two base-model C-130Js, and two KC-130J tankers to provide probe-and-drogue refueling for Armée de l’Air helicopters and tactical aircraft, according to the Feb. 4 release. The country’s legacy C-160 Transall and C-130H fleet has been used hard in intensive operations in West Africa, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Delivery delays with the new A400M airlifter have placed additional strain on the fleet, prompting C-130J acquisition as a stop-gap. Lockheed Martin is expediting delivery of the initial two aircraft in 2017 and early 2018, followed by the two KC-130Js in 2019, according to ?officials. France will become the Super Hercules’ 17th international customer, and has also discussed converting two of its legacy Hercs for special operations.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.