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Air Transportation: France Fills The A400M Gap

February 21, 2016: France has ordered four American C-130J transports. France already operates 14 of the older C-130H aircraft and was not expected to order the latest model, the C-130J, because France was a major customer for the new European A400M. But this aircraft was delayed four years and France only began receiving it in 2013. Then it turned out that the A400M could not yet handle aerial refueling of helicopters or paratroopers jumping from the side doors. So two of the new French C-130Js are transports and two are tankers. Delivery begins in late 2017. France needs the C-130Js to support its special forces and other overseas intervention forces.

The 141 ton A400M is in many ways superior to the C-130. A400M has a cruising speed of 780 kilometers per hour, a range of 6,400 kilometers (with a 20 ton load), and normally carries about 30 tons (or 116 paratroopers or slightly more regular passengers).

Most C-130s are the 70 ton C-130H which has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the 79 ton C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The C-130 is used by more than 50 countries. The A400M had an opportunity to give the C-130 a lot of competition, but this opportunity was diluted because the A400M failed to arrive on time and on budget. Still, the C-130 does now have the most formidable competitor it has ever faced.