RAF workhorse Hercules retires after more than 50 years of service

Watch: End of an era as Hercules retirement ceremony led by the Princess Royal

The Royal Air Force has said goodbye to the Hercules aircraft after nearly 57 years of dedicated service.

In a ceremony held at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, tributes were led by the Princess Royal.

The event also commemorated the standing down of No. 47 Squadron which operated the Hercules since its maiden flight in 1966 – the squadron now awaits a new role.

The retirement of the Hercules, known as the workhorse of the RAF, closes a remarkable chapter in RAF history.

The transport aircraft has been a reliable and versatile asset, providing vital support in a wide range of military operations, humanitarian missions, and disaster relief efforts.

Its distinctive features, including the instantly recognisable four-engine configuration, and its ability to operate from unprepared landing strips, have made it a solid choice in the harshest of conditions and terrains.

The Hercules leaves behind a rich legacy of service, as well as memories for those who have worked with the aircraft or witnessed it in action.

Last week, Hercules flew out of Cyprus for the final time, having been based at RAF Akrotiri in recent years.

Many wishing to say goodbye flooded the sports fields of the base to see it soar into the skies one last time.

The Hercules is being replaced by the Atlas A400M.

The new Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, admitted last month that retiring the Hercules would leave a temporary capability hole for Special Forces operations.

He said: "There is a gap from when the Hercules goes out of service to when the A400M picks up all of those capabilities.

"The niche issues where the gap is is around the airdrop and the kind of things we can drop from the aircraft."

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