The UK Royal Air Force is investigating the cause of a training incident involving a Lockheed Martin C-130K tactical transport, which has halted activities at its Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire since yesterday.

Aircraft XV304 blocked the runway at the RAF’s main transport hub after it made a wheels-up landing, causing fresh disruption to the UK’s “airbridge” between the base and Afghanistan.

The RAF’s joint aircraft recovery team will attempt to move the stranded Hercules from the runway this afternoon, enabling it to restore normal operations. The Ministry of Defence says the mishap has caused only “minor disruption”, and that affected flights have been diverted to alternative locations.

Delivered in 1968, XV304 is one of the RAF’s remaining 14 operational C-130Ks. The type is being gradually removed from service, with its capabilities to be replaced by around 22 Airbus Military A400Ms. No-one was injured in the landing incident.

 C-130K - Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright
The RAF's remaining C-130Ks will leave service soon

Used to transport personnel and equipment to Afghanistan, the UK’s airbridge was also suspended for several days in early April due to the effects of the ash cloud caused by an Icelandic volcanic eruption.

The 8 May landing incident has exposed a potential weakness in the RAF’s plan to base all of its air transport assets at a single base with only one runway. Brize Norton is already home to the service’s Boeing C-17 airlifters and Lockheed TriStar and Vickers VC10 tanker/transports, and is now being prepared to also accommodate its 14 replacement Airbus A330 Future Strategic Transport Aircraft.

The service is also making preparations to move its remaining C-130Ks and 24 C-130Js to Brize Norton from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, with the latter base set for closure.