The US State Department approved the sale of six Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport and tanker aircraft to Germany for an estimated $1.4 billion, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The approval comes as the aircraft’s larger European competitor, Airbus Defence & Space’s A400M transport aircraft, has struggled with production issues and has ramped down its delivery rate. Germany is a launch customer for the A400M, along with European NATO nations Spain, Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg and Turkey.

Lockheed Martin’s potential sale includes three C-130J-30s, the stretch version of the aircraft, and three KC-130Js, the aerial refueling version of the aircraft. Also included in the sale are eight AN/ALE 47 Electronic Countermeasure Dispensers; eight AN/AAR-47A(V)2 Missile Warning Systems; eight AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers; and eight MX-20 Electro-Optical/Infrared Imaging Systems, among other subsystems and spare engines.

C-130J 400 - Lockheed Martin

The German Air Force plans to use the aircraft to conduct airlift, air refueling, and air drop missions as part of a French-German allied squadron based in Evreux, France, according to the sale approval. The KC-130Js will provide air refueling capability to German and French fighter and light transport aircraft, as well as helicopters.

Airbus announced in March 2018 its plan to slow its final assembly rate for the A400M transport from a high of 19 aircraft in 2017 to only eight per year from 2020. Launch customers have balked at increased costs and delivery delays for the A400M. Consequently, Airbus has suffered financial penalties for the programme’s poor performance.

Airbus and launch nations renegotiated the delivery schedule for the programme in March 2018. Under the revised production schedule, the manufacturer should end 2019 having delivered approximately 80 aircraft from the total of 174 A400Ms ordered, with the remaining aircraft taking until the early 2030s to be delivered.