To make up for operational shortcomings of the Airbus A-400M transport, France in January 2016 ordered four Lockheed C-130Js – two standard transports and two KC-130J tanker/transports – for delivery in late 2017 and early 2018 for the transports and 2019 for the tankers. The four aircraft will be mainly operated in support of special forces.
For the same reason, Germany also plans to buy four to six C-130Js, and the Bundestag is to decide on the purchase of the aircraft in 2019, for delivery from 2021. However, the German defense ministry statement on the agreement says that each country will contribute six aircraft, implying that France will order two more.
“Six German and six French aircraft will be stationed [in Evreux]. France is the framework nation. This bilateral cooperation allows Germany to avoid the risk of a capability gap in the use of airfields with restricted infrastructure after the withdrawal of the Transall C-160,” von der Leyen said.
Given the delivery dates, the joint agreement signed April 10 in Berlin by German Defense Minister French Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, seems a bit premature, especially as Le Drian will be leaving office after the May presidential elections.
Signature à Berlin de l'accord intergouvernemental sur les C130J avec mon homologue allemande, Ursula Von der Leyen pic.twitter.com/BIYW2KmAId— Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) April 10, 2017
“Signature in Berlin of the intergovernmental agreement on the C130J with my German counterpart, Ursula Von der Leyen,” tweeted French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The bilateral agreement calls for the two countries to form a joint squadron based in Evreux, in Normandy, and will be manned by aircrew and ground support personnel from both countries. The squadron is due to become operational in 2021, and is intended to allow both countries to save money on training, support and operations, after they failed to set up joint procurement which would have allowed them to save a considerable amount.
The unit will consist of about 200 personnel from both countries.
"It is a great advance, we will have identical fleets, missions and joint training," welcomed French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian after signing the agreement.
"This testifies to the confidence that characterizes Franco-German relations," added his counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, who wished that the tandem would continue to "be a driving force for Europe…..It is reassuring to know that our two countries are side by side when it comes today to show the value that we really give to Europe," she said, handing Jean-Yves The Drian handed the cross the Ordre du Mérite, which is a German decoration despite its French name.