There are a lot of options to strengthen the Polish airlift capacity and one more just landed on the plate (my plate that is to be precise).
The C-130J or to be more precise MC-130J or any other multi role C-130 variant would be the natural option as Poland is using the old and faithful C-130E gang right now. This option is logical and probably the most cost effective but how about taking a different approach and going with the A400M, just theoretically of course as this is a no go for many reasons.
It is obvious that this aircraft had a lot of problems in the past but one can think that the worst is over. Of course buying brand new machines isn’t an option but there is an other, much better way.
Recently Czech Republic and Switzerland considered leasing a few aircraft for their needs. A joined effort would allow them to cut costs and push their airlift capacity greatly.
Leasing would also be good for Germany as they don’t want all of the ordered A400M’s. At first Germany has ordered more A400M to gain a bigger share in the production cake but wanted to sell them even before the delivery. This option has failed and they will have to keep all the aircraft so leasing them might be a good news for their wallet.
There is also an even better option. Spain. They also don’t want all of their aircraft and as their financial situation is much worse than the one in Germany so they would probably be willing to ease a bit the leasing terms.
The best thing about this deal would be time. Before the agreement could even materialize all the quirks in the A400M would be long gone and Poland would get a work horse.
One of the problems would be the infrastructure which is ready for the C-130. I can’t recall if a A400M would fit in the Powidz biggest hangar, probably yes (although I don’t know if it’s high enough).
But the biggest problem would be the MRTT. Poland wants to buy tanker-transport aircraft which would somehow collide with the A400M. The strategic lift would be provided by the new tankers although they can’t do the same tasks, this would be the logical scenario. The question is if Poland really needs two aircraft with strategic lift option? I think not. This would leave no space for the A400M as the C-130 option would be a better fit in the Polish reality:
– MRTT for strategic lift
– C-130 for tactical lift
– C-295 for smaller tasks
Such combo would fill all the gaps. The question is when and what decision will be taken? Considering the recent announcements of maritime patrol aircraft, MRTT aircraft and the need for at least 48 new multi role fighters the tactical lift component might not get new machines any time soon and Polish pilots will have to fly the granddaddies of the C-130 family.