Blue Angels get “Fat Albert” replacement

The Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron’s C-130T transport aircraft, affectionately known as Fat Albert, completes one of its final practice demonstrations at NAS Pensacola, April 2019. The legacy aircraft, retired in May, is being replaced with a newer variant C-130J Super Hercules in spring 2020.

The Navy awarded a contract June 13 to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MOD) for the purchase of one C-130J Super Hercules. The four-engine, six-blade turboprop aircraft is to serve as the next U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron (NFDS) logistical support aircraft, commonly called “Fat Albert.”

“This is a win-win for the United States Navy and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense,” said Capt. Steven Nassau, Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) program manager. “Just as the Navy recognized the imminent need to replace the Fat Albert aircraft, the UK MOD was divesting of an American made, C-130J aircraft; allowing us to acquire a suitable replacement aircraft at a major cost savings.”

Knowing the squadron’s Fat Albert was nearing the end of its service life, the acquisition team of PMA-207 successfully executed the expedited acquisition, citing the professionalism of many stakeholders.

“The success of this acquisition speaks to multiple teams, including the UK MOD DESA Sales Team, the MOD Air Support Team, Marshal Aerospace Team, and our PMA-207 Acquisition team willing and able to overcome the hurdles of working between sovereign nations,” said Nassau.

The program received congressional approval to proceed with the acquisition in March 2018 and the purchase was funded by repurposed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) proceeds from sales of retired U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps C-130 aircraft. The $29.7 million contract is at least $50 million less than the cost of a new aircraft.

The newly acquired “J-Model” Super Hercules completes the transition from the previous legacy C-130T Hercules, which the squadron used for the past 17 years and was retired in May. While the C-130J will be the only variant of its type used by the Navy, the C-130J is familiar to the U.S. Air Force and shares common components with the KC-130J currently flown by the Marine Corps, making it a perfect solution for the Blue Angels’ requirements.

“From identifying the technical requirements, support equipment, engineering development and support efforts, it was a total team effort and we need to recognize the incredible NAVAIR collaboration that allowed us to get where we are in such a short time period,” said Jack Miller, PMA-207 KC-130J Integrated Product Team Lead. “To have a turn-key aircraft in place just two years from receiving funding is quite an accomplishment.”

The new aircraft will undergo a major periodic maintenance interval inspection to baseline its maintenance schedule. It will also get a new paint job and a slight configuration adjustment to align the aircraft with the existing KC-130J model inventory, familiar to the Marines who will man it. In order to expedite the acquisition, the inspections and changes will be performed at Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge, England.

“Our partners at the UK MOD and Marshal Aerospace have been instrumental in executing this extremely challenging acquisition,” said Lt. Col. Robert Hurst, PMA-207 C/KC-130 deputy program manager. “We have always had a great partnership with the UK and this only adds to the list of ways we accomplish great things together.”

In the meantime, the Blue Angels logistical support aircraft requirement is being met by borrowed U.S. Navy or Marine Corps C-130T assets, affectionately nicknamed “Ernie.” Delivery of the replacement J-Model Super Hercules, given the tag “Bert,” is anticipated by spring 2020.

With the acquisition phase complete, PMA-207 and its Fleet Support Team stand poised to meet the challenges associated with sustaining this unique aircraft with its unique mission.