In a letter, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Gaydon and Air Chief Marshal Sir Johns wrote: “Of the many cuts to our armed forces in recent years, one of the most perverse is the disposal of the RAF’s remaining 14 C130 transport aircraft.
“At a time of great international tension, the decision to remove a proven and effective workhorse is extraordinary.”
Their letter, published in The Times, comes as the RAF bid farewell to both Hercules and the squadron that flew her in a nationwide flypast.
Both the C-130 Hercules – affectionately known as “Fat Albert” – and 47 Squadron are being stood down.
On Wednesday, the Hercules C-130 and 47 Squadron made a final flypast across Britain before they both said goodbye to Britain’s armed forces.
As the aircraft travelled around, civilian and military personnel shared their memories of a plane that has served the UK for nearly 50 years.
For one Ms Ceri Marsh, the sound of the aircraft’s engines brought back memories of her late father, RAF engineer Michael Marsh.
A patient representative at the Royal College of Physicians Wales, Ms Marsh told the Telegraph: “I loved the sound of those engines. My father instilled a love of the aircraft in me, and I am always Hercules spotting. If I hear an RAF transporter my ears are up.”
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Ms Marsh added that the aircraft was “iconic” in part because of its size, but also because of its “shiny black nose”.
The Hercules has played a major role in several conflicts since the RAF began its relationship with the aircraft.
As well as transporting people and pallets, the Hercules – known to some as the Herc – has been an airborne refuelling tanker, conducted electronic warfare operations, and provided special forces and airborne gunfire support.
The RAF has decided to stand the Hercules down because it was found to have “increasingly limited utility in the digital and future operating environment”.
The Hercules is being stood down to be replaced by the larger and faster A400M Atlas, considered part of the next generation of transport aircraft.
Although the A400M is the future of the RAF’s transport capabilities, there is still a lot of love for the versatile Hercules.
There is also a lot of appreciation for the squadron that flew her. Speaking in the Commons, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid tribute to 47 Squadron.
He said: “Their association with the Hercules now stretches for 45 years, and although their vital work at the heart of defence has often been unheralded, the squadron has served with professionalism and distinction throughout.”
47 Squadron’s final flight will take place during the Trooping the Colour this Saturday, an event many believe will be a fitting end to their service.
47 Squadron was formed at the height of World War 1 in 1916 as a reconnaissance squadron. They continued their operations during World War 2 and played a key role during the Berlin Airlift in 1948.
In 1960, they became part of the transport fleet and played key roles in the Falklands War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.