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C-130 Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As the Philippine Air Force push to improve its overall airlift and transport capabilities with the limited funds allocated to them, the service has included the acquisition of surplus but refurbished Lockheed C-130 Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft from the US government as part of its shopping list under the Horizon 2 phase priority projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program covering Fiscal Years 2018 to 2022.

Being an existing and long-time user of the C-130 Hercules, the PAF found it logical and practical to purchase surplus C-130 aircraft with its meager budget, rather than push for brand new, similar sized aircraft.

Two surplus but refurbished and upgraded C-130T Hercules were procured under the Horizon 1 phase, and another 2 similar units are being procured under the Horizon 2 phase. Photo credited to CNN Philippines.

Project Summary:

C-130H Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 26 May 2024.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (220th Airlift Wing)

Quantity: 2 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php2,080,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode: US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) Program

* Source of Funding: Majority through GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA), and US FMF funding.

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: US Department of Defense

Product for Delivery: C-130H Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft, refurbished and upgraded by US-designated contractor.

* Contract Price: approx. Php2,500,000,000.00, but PAF only paid only US$35,603,026.00 (approx Php1,780,000,000.00).

* First post by MaxDefense: 15 August 2018

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFC130Acqisition 

Status: Originally scheduled for delivery starting early 2019, delays pushed delivery to 2020. DND confirmed delivery of 1st aircraft by July 2020, 2nd aircraft before end of 2020. Delays encountered due to COVID-19, delivery of 1st aircraft pushed back to December 2020, 2nd aircraft by 1st quarter of 2021. First aircraft with tail number 5125 delivered on 29 January 2021, inducted on 18 February 2021, crashed and written off on 04 July 2021. Second aircraft with tail number 5157 expected for delivery by December 2021, arrived on 16 February 2024 at Clark Air Base, and formally handed-over and inducted into service with the 220th Airlift Wing on 23 May 2024. PROJECT COMPLETED.

One of the PAF's C-130T acquired from US EDA. Credit to original source of photo.


The acquisition of refurbished and upgraded Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, together with Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package, is among those included in the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects that was given in-principle approval by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in June 2018.

Originally, the plan calls for the acquisition of a single C-130H/T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft from US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) at an overall cost of Php2,080,000,000.00. The huge budget is due mostly to the upgraded avionics, the spares and logistics support, and other ancillary costs rather than the airframe itself.

Air transport has long been a problem of the PAF, and the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Philippines has recommended to the US Department of Defense to assist the PAF in building this capability.

For this project, the US stepped in to assist by providing assistance through US Foreign Military Financing (FMF program, which now allowed the PAF to acquire two (2) refurbished and upgrade C-130 Hercules aircraft instead of just one. The overall cost of the project went up to Php2.5 billion, but the PAF is now just shouldering less than Php1.6 billion plus other expenses worth more than Php170 million, while the US Department of Defense paid for Php900 million worth of the project. This allowed the PAF a savings of around Php400 million which is was able to use in other modernization projects that encountered shortfall in funding.

The original delivery date for the C-130s was supposed to have happened earlier, with the first aircraft expected in early 2019, and the second aircraft before the end of 2019. This was confirmed in a speech made by former Commanding General Philippine Air Force (CGPAF) Lt. Gen. Galileo Kintanar (ret) in September 2018, and again reiterated in another speech during the service's Christmas Party in December 2018.

MaxDefense Philippines reported that the reason for delays was due to the delayed release of funding from the Philippine government, which has always been a problem in most modernization projects.

The Department of National Defense (DND) confirmed in a press release last week that based on their status reports, the first C-130 Hercules will be arriving within July 2020, and the second will arrive before the end of 2020.

Since the statement was based on a status report rather than an updated field information, there is still possibility that the arrival of the first aircraft will be delayed as COVID-19 has made things difficult globally. Although at best, we can still possibly expect its arrival within this 3rd quarter of 2020.

The arrival of these C-130s will certainly boost the PAF's existing fleet of three (3) operational C-130s operated by the Mactan-based 220th Airlift Wing, although only 2 aircraft are available at any given time since the third unit, a C-130T, is undergoing Inspection and Repair As Necessary (IRAN) procedures in Europe. The PAF also has a non-operational 1960s model C-130B which is expected to be retired from service soon, and a written off C-130H, which was cannibalized for parts after suffering damage from a fire in 2019.

One of the PAF's C-130T Hercules, which is a former US Marine Corps KC-130T, refurbished, upgraded and acquired by the PAF but without the refuelling capability. Photo credits to Jon Melo through Jetphotos.com.

U P D A T E S:

03 October 2018:

Another confirmation made by the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, Lt.Gen. Galileo Kintanar, is that the PAF is expected to receive 2 more C-130 Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft by next year.

Since the PAF has only allocated budget to acquire one pre-owned refurbished upgraded C-130 Hercules as part of the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP, the arrival of 2 C-130s next year is actually something new and could be separate from the acquisition of 1 refurbished C-130. Due to the nature of the acquisition and the lack of information about this, it is most probably coming as grants by either the US government, or by other friendly governments. 

Credits to original source of photo.


28 July 2020:

As expected, due to COVID, the delivery of the refurbished C-130H Hercules acquired from the US was moved to October 2020 for the 1st aircraft (instead of July 2020), and the second unit is now for delivery by early 2021 (from late 2020).

COVID was said to have disrupted the schedules, and may have affected the availability of parts, or even manpower doing the refurbishing works.


09 December 2020:

The first of two refurbished C-130 Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft that was ordered from US Excess Defense Articles (US EDA) was mentioned by visiting US Acting Defense Sec. Christopher Miller as scheduled to arrive on 17 December 2020.

The 2 aircraft was jointly paid for by the Philippine Air Force's Horizon 2 phase modernization program, and US military assistance thorugh US Foreign Military Financing (US FMF) program to the Philippines. Originally in the Horizon 2 program, only 1 will be procured, but US assistance allowed the PAF to procure 2.

While it is not yet 100% confirmed what model will be arriving, previous info says it is a refurbished C-130H.

The 1st aircraft was originally scheduled to arrive last July, but its refurbishing works was delayed due to COVID issues. The 2nd aircraft is expected to be delivered in early 2021.

Photo credits to Kit Anad. 


27 December 2020:

MaxDefense Philippines checked its sources and found that the first C-130 aircraft that was said as scheduled for delivery this December 2020 has not yet arrived in the Philippines.


18 January 2021:

Photos have been made available on the 1st C-130H Hercules transport aircraft acquired under this project. The C-130H Hercules, with tail number 5125, can be seen here landing at San Diego North Island Naval Air Station in California, US, most likely in preparation for its delivery trip to the Philippines. 

Photo credits to Tyler J, through Jetphotos.

C-130H with t/n 5125. Photo credits from Tyler J through Jetphotos.

Another photo of the aircraft can be seen below, also shown on the same day also approaching the same airfield but taken from a different angle.

PAF C-130H with t/n 5125. Photo credits to SBGrad.

The aircraft, with serial number 87-284, was formerly a US Air Force C-130H Hercules transport aircraft built in 1987 and delivered in 1988. It was converted to a MC-130W Combat Spear special operations aircraft used for infiltrating, exfiltrating  and resupplying US Special Operations forces. It also has capability to act as an aerial refuelling tanker for special operations helicopters and and aircraft.

While the aircraft was retired in 2016 and its special operations equipment removed, it is possible that the internal plumbing for the aerial refuelling system could be intact, which will allow for easier conversion to a tanker aircraft in the future.

Being spec ops aircraft, it is also expected that the airframe did not suffer too much stress on carrying heavy cargo, although other factors need to be considered.

The Philippine Air Force's technical team probably know more about the reason why they selected this specific airframe, so we'll just have to trust their expertise on the matter.


29 January 2021:

The Lockheed C-130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft with t/n 5125, arrived at Villamor Air Base in Manila today 29 January 2021, after flying in from Guam.

The aircraft is expected to be officially transferred and inducted soon with the Philippine Air Force's 220th Airlift Wing.

As we explained before, this aircraft was a former MC-130W Combat Spear special operations aircraft of the US Air Force, and was retired a few years ago. It underwent rehabilitation, refurbishing and upgrade in the last 2 years, before the aircraft was delivered to the PAF.

It has upgraded avionics, a partial glass cockpit, and it also appears to have SATCOM retained as PAF is starting to standardize that with all its existing and future C-130 aircraft.

The aircraft was jointly funded by Philippine and US governments, as originally the PAF was only after 1 aircraft. The assistance from US allowed the PAF to get 2 aircraft instead.

Photos below credited to Inquirer.net's Frances Mangosing.


13 February 2021:

The C-130H Hercules with tail number 5125 was among those new air assets presented to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to Clark Air Base.

No scheduled has been made yet on when the aircraft would be officially inducted with the Philippine Air Force, which would allow it to be used for standard operational requirements.

Photo credit to PTV4's Facebook page.

The C-130H Hercules with t/n 5125 can be seen behind other PAF assets. Photo credits to PTV4.


18 February 2021:

The first C-130H Hercules with tail number 5125 was formally accepted and inducted to the Philippine Air Force during ceremonies today, 18 February 2021 at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana led the honors together with PAF and US officials.

Still no word though on the delivery of the 2nd EDA C-130H Hercules, although expected delivery was said to be by mid-2021.

Photos below from the DND's Facebook page.


04 July 2021:

The C-130H Hercules with tail number 5125, the same aircraft that was handed over to the PAF on February 2021, crashed today in Jolo, Sulu.

The aircraft is a total loss, with rescue and recovery operations ongoing to retrieve the 92 passengers and crew of the aircraft.

According to the DND, there were 3 pilots, 5 crew members, and 84 passengers, mostly Philippine Army troops from the 4th Infantry Division.

As of this writing, 40 injured personnel were said to have been recovered, while 17 were confirmed dead. There are also reports from MaxDefense Philippines contributors saying all 3 pilots survived and have been accounted for.

Although no investigation have been made yet, reports from DND says that the aircraft flew from Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, and tried to land at Jolo Airport. The aircraft was said to have missed the runway, and tried to recover but failed.

Photos from crash site as provided to MaxDefense Philippines. Credits to original sources.

More information would be made available in MaxDefense Philippines' Facebook pages.


12 October 2021:

MaxDefense Philippines received confirmation from Philippine Air Force sources that the second C-130H Hercules from the US is scheduled to arrive before year end, most likely by December 2021.

A PAF contingent bringing home a newly repaired C-130T Hercules from Portugal is scheduled to visit AMARG as part of their ferry trip. The visit is most likely related to the upcoming C-130H for delivery within the year.

No details have been provided on the upcoming C-130H Hercules. But it is highly expected to be an ex-US Air Force model similar to the first one with t/n 5125 that arrived in 2020 (and crashed and destroyed on July 2021).


18 February 2024:

Finally a publicly available photo of the upcoming C-130H Hercules transport aircraft for the Philippine Air Force.

The aircraft, was photographed in Waco, Texas in late January 2024.

The C-130H with t/n 5157 in Waco, Texas. Photo credits to John H  AeroXplorer.com.


19 February 2024:

The second aircraft procured under this project has finally arrived in the Philippines on 16 February 2024, flying in from Waco, Texas and flown by American pilots.

The aircraft, with tail number 5157, is scheduled to be formally handed-over and inducted into service with the Philippine Air Force's 220th Airlift Wing by somewhere near the end of February 2024 or early March 2024.

The aircraft was partly paid for the US Government, with the procurement made through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) and US Excess Defense Articles (US EDA).

The C-130H with t/n 5157 upon arriving at Clark Air Base on 16 February 2024.


26 May 2024:

The Philippine Air Force formally accepted in inducted to service the recently delivered C-130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft with tail no. 5157 last 23 May 2024 at BGen Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu.

The aircraft was part of the PAF's C-130H Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS Acquisition Project, which is a Horizon 2 Priority Phase project under RAFPMP.
This is the 2nd aircraft delivered under the project, and was partly funded by US Foreign Military Financing.

The PAF still plans to procure several more used C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, with the US already planning to provide several units as part of the Secuirty Sector Assistance Roadmap for the Philippines.

This is in addition to the existing acquisition of 3 brand new C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft, and plans to acquire additional new C-130Js under Re-Horizon 3 phase.

Photo credits to the Philippine Air Force.


With both upgraded C-130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft already delivered and formally inducted with the Philippine Air Force as of May 2024, MaxDefense and Philippine Defense Resource officially consider the C-130 Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force as COMPLETED.

x x x x x x x x x x x 

First edit and release: 27 December 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

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