Oman buys Hercules aircraft to boost fleet

Oman has bolstered its military muscle with the purchase of two new C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

Oman has bolstered its military muscle with the purchase of two new C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. Oman's government has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin, the US defence manufacturer, to deliver the aircraft in late 2013 and early 2014. The heavy lifters complement three older model C-130H transport aircraft that Oman purchased in the early 1980s and operates between its remote airstrips.

"The C-130J is ideally suited to the operating conditions found in Oman and other areas of the Gulf," said Jim Grant, the vice president for air mobility at Lockheed Martin. "In selecting the C-130J Super Hercules, Oman has recognised all the proven qualities of the world's most advanced airlifter." The aircraft's extra airlift capacity allows for the movement of greater quantities of goods and equipment.

Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research at the Institute for Near Eastern and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said: "It's a part of the Omani version of modernising their airlift capabilities. "They want to get more involved in the humanitarian airlift side of air operations. … It could deliver equipment as part of airlift operations to other states or contingencies in the region." Many Gulf states were upping their airlift capacities to be able to respond to man-made and natural disasters, he said.

Oman is currently engaged in relief operations to help victims of flooding in Pakistan. The country has sent 2,336 tonnes of aid to up to 150,000 people, according to the Oman news agency. Dr Karasik added: "This [purchase] may also have special operations capabilities." This could be utilised in the event of increased security concerns in neighbouring Yemen, he added. The UAE and Qatar have recently made similar purchases.

The UAE added 12 Hercules to its transport fleet last year, alongside six new Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport jets. The Hercules is the longest-serving military aircraft in the world, having seen service with the US air force since 1957. gregor.hunter@thenational.ae

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