The first Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules to be upgraded to Block 8.1 standard hardware and software has arrived home at RAAF Base Richmond.

The Hercules was upgraded by Lockheed Martin in the United States with support from the United States Air Force, while RAAF’s 11 remaining C-130J Hercules will be modified by Airbus Australia Pacific at Richmond.

The Block 8.1 system upgrade also includes safety improvements to the aircraft for RAAF’s No. 37 Squadron aviators.

The upgrade includes changes to the aircraft’s navigation systems, which will ensure greater accuracy during landing approaches particularly in our Asia–Pacific region and remote parts of Australia and when delivering cargo to a drop zone.

Block 8.1 will also ensure the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules fleet is compliant with the latest worldwide air traffic management regulations, and introduce updated friend-or-foe identification systems for flying on coalition operations.

Group Captain James Badgery, Officer Commanding the Air Lift Systems Program Office, said the upgrade would prove essential in future Hercules missions.

“Block 8.1 will make it easier for crews to operate the Hercules in a range of complicated environments, from civilian airspace around airports through to airfields on the frontline,” Group Captain Badgery said.

“Hercules' crews have often been first on the scene during times of crisis, evidenced by the support delivered during the Kabul Airlift in August, and Block 8.1 will ensure the fleet can continue flying these operations safely.”

“Airbus Australia Pacific has already commenced the first local upgrade of an aircraft to Block 8.1 standard at Richmond, and the remaining fleet will be modified as they become due for major scheduled servicing.”

Air Force introduced its fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules to service in 1999. Capable of lifting approximately 120 passengers or up to 20 tonnes of cargo, the Hercules provides a medium tactical airlift capability for the Australian Defence Force between the smaller C-27J Spartan and larger C-17A Globemaster III.