BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold speaks to Gary Moynehan, CEO, Marshall Aerospace and Defence (MADG).
“Did the announcement in the recent Defence Review that the RAF’s C-130J fleet would be retired early in 2023 come as a surprise?”
“We have been anticipating that the MoD would bring forward the out of service date for the C-130 fleet however we had not expected such a short timeframe. The signs that the C-130J fleet would be retired early had been there since the earlier SDSR in 2015. Following confirmation of an early withdrawal of the RAF’s 14-strong C-130J fleet, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) is confident that we can reduce the number of potential job losses by working with the Ministry of Defence to secure the effective resale of the aircraft.”
“You have had the contract since 1966, a long time, so will it make a big dent in your financial results?”
“It is still too early for us to be able to assess the full impact this decision will have on our operations at Cambridge and Brize Norton but we will do everything we can to protect as many jobs as possible but unfortunately we also have to be realistic at a time when the aviation industry is already under enormous pressure. The contract is worth £100 million a year to MADG so it’s a significant size.”
“I see that you have picked up several new C-130 support contracts particularly the ten year USMC contract. Will this diversification policy into exports fill the gap with the RAF C-130J withdrawal?”
MADG won a 10-year USMC enablement contract last year to deliver scheduled and unscheduled maintenance across its 66-strong fleet of KC130J aircraft.
“The final loss depends on whether the MoD will continue the replacement centre wing contract, for which we have already completed three aircraft. This will obviously increase the resale value of the aircraft. In line with Prime Minister’s commitment in the Integrated Review to prioritising UK industrial capability, we expect to support the RAF in the successful resale of the C-130 fleet in order to maximise return for the UK economy and in turn reduce the risk of significant job losses within MADG. As we have for the last 50 plus years, we will work in partnership with the MoD to manage the withdrawal as effectively as possible given the timescales. Our teams have been justly proud to support 47, 206 and XXIV Squadrons over so many years and will be incredibly sad to see that come to an end.”
“Do you expect the C-130 MRO business to expand in the coming years?”
“We do remain confident that our C-130 MRO business can continue to grow, we have 17 long term international customers and are continuing to win more contracts with overseas operators who recognise the unique capability of the platform.”
“Do you see the potential of MADG expanding to work on other platforms, including A400M?”
“Airbus has made it clear that it wishes to keep the bulk of the RAF A400M work in house apart from the small contract won by Flybe. We looked at working with Boing on the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, but we could not come to a commercial agreement. Having said that, we are always looking for new opportunities.”
“Is the planned move out of Cambridge on track?”
“Very much so, we looked at several new locations, but we have secured an option on Cranfield Airport. The Land Systems business will move first, followed by Air in 2030. Our Cambridge site is a significant area of 100 acres, equivalent to the size of the Central Cambridge district, so the move will contribute to the growth of Cambridge and give MADG the funds to build our new facilities.”
“Your Land Systems business continues to prosper, have you any plans for new products and services?”
“Our Land Systems business has doubled in size since 2017, mainly due to the £100 million Dutch shelter contract, won in 2018, which requires the supply of 1500 shelters over 5 years.”
Marshall is providing more than 1400 container systems over the next five years. These include command and control shelters, workshops, controlled atmosphere and basic stores units, together with a 14 year fully integrated availability support package. As part of the design work Marshall is providing a new expandable container which uses lighter materials but maintains the strength of its in-service Matrix Expandable products.
“Winning this contract was a major milestone in the strategic development of our Land Systems business and emphasises our capability to manage major programmes which benefits not only Marshall but local suppliers. During both the implementation and support phases of this contract we will be working closely with Dutch industry not only as part of the supply chain but also as part of the development of our business across Europe. We also won the Canadian MSVS Mack truck loadbed contract using expertise from the UK MAN Programme. As you know we were on the original UK Boxer programme, supply the ambulance pod which we are supply to the Dutch Army. We are awaiting news on whether we have won a place on the UK Boxer programme.”
“So, all in all, although it leaves a void in your work for the RAF and causes redundancies, MADG has weathered the C-130J storm and continues to prosper?”
“Yes, very much so, although we would have preferred it not to happened we were well prepared and used that time to diversify in to other C-130 export programmes. MADG is an international group and still the largest private company in the UK, the company currently employees over 1600 people across locations in Cambridge, Brize Norton, North Yorkshire, Netherlands, UAE and Canada.”
“Finally, given the experiences with the France and Germany revisiting the C-130 as part of their tactical transport fleet with A400M, do you see the likelihood that the RAF will look at C-130 again, particularly with the strong utilisation of the aircraft for tactical Special Forces use. It is a large and expensive aircraft to use at the front end of the battlefield?”
“In the short term the cost of updating the whole fleet of 17 RAF C-130Js was seen as prohibitive. The Defence Review decided that a mix of C-17 and A400M would perform the roles required for the perceived missions of the future. A400M has a number of capabilities which require it to prove under the ongoing programme. Time will tell whether it can perform the required tactical missions as well as C-130 or whether it will be more of a strategic aircraft.”