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C-160 Transall 60th anniversary

The first Transall C-160 performed its maiden flight on 25 May 1963, with the South African Air Force (SAAF) many years later receiving nine C-160s in August 1969.

Images: South Africa Legion, SAAF Museum, Adrian Pingstone

Because the SAAF also operated the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the C-160Z Transall all in the same squadron, the number designation and types are often confused with each other. Many incorrectly assume the smaller designated C-130 being the two engine version and the C-160 the Hercules the four-engine model.

However both types of aircraft were at times called ‘Flossies’ by South African Defence Force (SADF) members and troops.

Development history

On 28 November 1957, both France and Germany signed an agreement calling for development of a proposed new transport aircraft.

A consortium, named the ‘Transporter-Allianz’ or Transall for short, was formally established in January 1959 to develop and produce the new transport aircraft to replace the piston-engine Nord Noratlas transports used by both the French and German Air Forces.

French aircraft manufacturer Nord Aviation and the German companies Weser Flugzeugbau (VFW) and Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB) joined forces to build one prototype each. These companies later became part of the Airbus Group.

The first flying prototype built by Nord took to the air on 25 May 1963, while the VFW and HFB-built prototype flew on 19 February 1964.  The prototypes were assessed and six pre-production examples were stretched by 51 centimetres (20 in).

Unfortunately, production orders were delayed when the Americans intervened, trying to sell their Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport to the German Air Force as an alternative to the C-160.

On 24 September 1964, a formal production contract was signed comprising 160 C-160s made up of 110 aircraft for Germany and 50 aircraft for France. The first production aircraft was delivered in 1976.

The C-160 can carry 90 troops or 64 fully equipped paratroopers, or alternatively 62 medical stretcher patients.

In a pure cargo role, the aircraft can carry a maximum payload of 16,000 kg, including armoured vehicles, tanks and palletised or unpalletised loads. To aid this, the floor is fitted with lashing points rated at 5,000 kg. Additional side wall lashing points are fitted rated at 12,000 kg.

The crew consists of four: the pilot and co-pilot, flight engineer, and navigator. Usually a loadmaster is part of the crew during cargo ops.

The aircraft is powered by two Rolls-Royce Tyne RTy.20 MK22 turboprop engines, rated at 4,550kW each, driving four-blade, reversible-pitch, constant-speed propellers. SAAF Mechanic Emmanual Yannikakis said in a comment, “I Worked on the Rolls Royce Tyne engines of the C160 but must admit the Allison 501-D22a engines of the Hercules C130 were nicer to work on.”

The C-160 has a maximum level speed of 536 km/h at 4500m or a maximum cruising speed of 492 km/h at 8,000 m.

Climb rate is 440m/min at sea level at maximum take-off weight.  A ceiling of 8,500 m with a range of 4,558 km at a payload of 8,000 kg is possible. Range diminishes dramatically to only 1,175 km with a higher payload of 16,000 kg. A 10% fuel reserve usually allows around 30 minutes extra flying time.

During 1981, the second generation C-160s made their first flight. Aircraft produced in this batch included 33 for France and six for Indonesia.

C-160 production ended in 1985.

SAAF service

The South African Air Force ordered nine C-160Zs first flying in January 1969 with first delivery in August 1969. 28 Squadron based at Air Force Base Waterkloof were assigned these aircraft working together with their Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

The Transall C-160 saw operational service for the first time in Ops Savannah in 1975/76 and since then has taken part in numerous other operations and roles. The large internal capacity permitted payloads of bulkier cargo than the C-130 Hercules including a dismantled SAAF Puma helicopter sent to Mozambique.

C-160s have also assisted with famous rescues such as the Oceanos passenger liner on 4 August 1991 and the well-known SAA Boeing 747 Helderberg crash in November 1987.

In January 1993, the C-160 was phased out due to budget constraints and high refurbishment costs. Only the C-130 Hercules remains in SAAF service today with 28 Squadron.

Eight of the C-160 aircraft were scrapped, with the sole remaining example on public display at AFB Swartkops.




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