In an official ceremony at Base Aérienne 101 (BA101) Niamey/Diori Hamani on 7 December 2021, the US Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) formally handed over the second of the three USAF Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules to the Armée de l’Air du Niger (Niger Air Force).
The former US Air Force Hercules, serial 5UMMS, arrived in Niger somewhere in November. The delivery of the first aircraft, on 4 January 2021, was in fact the re-delivery after extensive overhaul of C-130H serial 5UMBH.
USAFE-AFAFRICA commander National Guard Assistant USAF major general James Kriesel said, “We proudly stand alongside our Nigerien partners as we celebrate the enhanced strength of our coalition force. Niger has built a defence framework committed to amplifying regional security and stability throughout the Sahel.”
US Embassy Niamey chargé d’affaires Susan N’Garnim said, “This momentous occasion is a testament to the long-standing, enduring, and productive partnership between the United States and Niger.”
Since 2015, the United States has invested more than USD 30 million in the development of the Niger Air Force Hercules programme including a training component, purchase of spare parts, infrastructure, fuel and support equipment. The US has trained 16 Nigerien pilots, 19 maintenance personnel, five baggage handlers and a flight engineer.
With the delivery of this Hercules the air force is regaining its former capacity and even strengthening it with the arrival of another C-130H during the first half of 2022.
The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.
Using its aft loading ramp and door, the C-130 can accommodate a wide variety of oversized cargo, including everything from utility helicopters and six-wheeled armored vehicles to standard palletized cargo and military personnel. In an aerial delivery role, it can airdrop loads up to 42,000 pounds (19,000 kg) or use its high-flotation landing gear to land and deliver cargo on rough, dirt strips.
The C-130H was introduced in 1974 with the U.S Air Force with with the more powerful Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engine. Nearly identical to the C-130E externally, the new engine brought major performance improvements to the aircraft.