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File: C-130 Hercules over Santa Cruz Island.jpg
A C-130J flying over Santa Cruz Island.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft built by Lockheed and used by many countries, primarily the United States. The C-130 has been in continuous service with the United States Air Force. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacoution, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a Gunship (the AC-130 ), for airborne assault, search and destroy, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting. It is the main Tactical lifter for many military forces worldwide. Over 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 50 nations.

Development and ProcurementEdit

Requirements and ProposalsEdit

On February 2, 1952, the USAF issued a General Operating Requirement for a new transport aircraft to Boeing, Douglas, Fairchild, Lockheed, Martin, Chase Aircraft, North American, Northrop, and Airlifts Inc. Fairchild, North American, Martin and Northrop declined to participate. Unlike previous transports that were derived from airliners the C-130 would be built from the ground up as a combat transport. The new transport would have a capacity for 92 passengers, 72 combat troops or 64 paratroopers in a cargo compartment that is approximately 41 feet (12 m) long, 9 feet (2.7 m) high, and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide. The T56 turboprop which was developed specifically for the C-130 would give it more power and range than it's predecessors. The remaining five companies tendered a total of 10 designs: Lockheed two, Boeing one, Chase three, Douglas three, and Airlifts Inc. one. The contest was close between the lighter of the two Lockheed proposals and a four-turboprop Douglas design.

The Lockheed design team leader Willis Hawkins sent a 130 page proposal for the Lockheed L-206 to Lockheed Vice President Hall Hibbard. Hall Hibbard and the now famed Kelly Johnson signed the proposal and the company won the contract for the now-designated Model 82 on 2 July 1951. The new Lockheed cargo plane design possessed a range of 1,100 nmi (1,300 mi; 2,000 km), takeoff capability from short and unprepared
YC-130s formation usaf

Two YC-130s in flight.

strips, and the ability to fly with one engine shut down.

The first flight of the YC-130 prototype was made on 23 August 1954 from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California. The aircraft, serial number 53-3397, was the second prototype but the first of the two to fly. The YC-130 was piloted by Stanley Beltz and Roy Wimmer on its 61-minute flight to Edwards Air Force Base; Jack Real and Dick Stanton served as flight engineers. Kelly Johnson flew chase in a P2V Neptune.

Production and ProcurementEdit


The first production C-130s were designated as A-models, with deliveries in 1956 to the 463d Troop Carrier Wing at Ardmore AFB, Oklahoma and the 314th Troop Carrier Wing at Sewart AFB, Tennessee. Six additional squadrons were assigned to the 322d Air Division in Europe and the 315th Air Division in the Far East. Australia became the first non American force to operate the C130A Hercules with 12 examples being delivered during late 1958-early 1959. These aircraft were fitted with three-blade AeroProducts propeller of 15' diameter. The A-model continued in service through the Vietnam War, where the airplanes assigned to the four squadrons at Naha AB, Okinawa and one at Tachikawa Air Base. The A-model was also provided to the South Vietnamese Air Force as part of the Vietnamization program at the end of the war, and equipped three squadrons based at Tan Son Nhut AFB. The last operator in the world is the Honduran Air Force, which is still flying one of five A model Hercs (FAH 558, c/n 3042) as of October 2009.


The C-130B model was developed to complement the A models that had previously been delivered, and incorporated new features, particularly increased fuel capacity in the form of auxiliary tanks built into the center wing section and an AC electrical system. Four-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers replaced the Aero Product three-bladed propellers that distinguished the earlier A-models. A prominent role for the B model was with the United States Marine Corps, where Hercules initially designated as GV-1s replaced C-119s.


The extended range C-130E model entered service in 1962 after it was developed as an interim long-range transport for the Military Air Transport Service. Essentially a B-model, the new designation was the result of the installation of 1,360 US gal (5,150 L) Sargent Fletcher external fuel tanks under each wing's midsection and more powerful Allison T56-A-7A turboprops. The E model also featured structural improvements, avionics upgrades and a higher gross weight. Australia took delivery of 12 C130E Hercules during 1966-67 to supplement the 12 C-130A models already in service with the RAAF. Sweden and Spain fly the TP-84T version of the C-130E fitted for aerial refueling capability.

C-130F / KC-130F / C-130GEdit

The KC-130 tankers, originally C-130Fs procured for the USMC in 1958 are equipped with a removable 3,600 US gal (13,626 l) stainless steel fuel tank carried inside the cargo compartment. The two wing-mounted hose
Spanish KC-130H and F-18

A Spanish KC-130H refueling two F/A-18s.

and drogue aerial refueling pods each transfer up to 300 US gal per minute (19 l per second) to two aircraft simultaneously, allowing for rapid cycle times of multiple-receiver aircraft formations, (a typical tanker formation of four aircraft in less than 30 minutes). The US Navy's C-130G has increased structural strength allowing higher gross weight operation.


C-130H HerculesEdit

The C-130H model has updated Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, a redesigned outer wing, updated avionics and other minor improvements. Later H models had a new, fatigue-life-improved, center wing that was retro-fitted to many earlier H-models. The H model remains in widespread use with the US Air Force (USAF) and many foreign air forces. Initial deliveries began in 1964 (to the RNZAF), remaining in production until 1996. An improved C-130H was introduced in 1974, with Australia purchasing 12 of type in 1978 to replace the original 12 C-130A models which had first entered RAAF Service in 1958. The United States Coast Guard employs the HC-130H for long range search and rescue, drug interdiction, illegal migrant patrols, homeland security, and logistics.

A C-130 being unloaded.


The equivalent model for export to the UK is the C-130K, known by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as the Hercules C.1. The C-130H-30 (Hercules C.3 in RAF service) is a stretched version of the original Hercules, achieved by inserting a 100 in (2.54 m) plug aft of the cockpit and an 80 in (2.03 m) plug at the rear of the fuselage. A single C-130K was purchased by the Met Office for use by its Meteorological Research Flight, where it was classified as the Hercules W.2. This aircraft was heavily modified (with its most prominent feature being the long red and white striped atmospheric probe on the nose and the move of the weather radar into a pod above the forward fuselage). This aircraft, named Snoopy, was withdrawn in 2001 and was then modified by Marshall of Cambridge Aerospace as flight-test bed for the A400M turbine engine, the TP400. The C-130K is used by the RAF Falcons for parachute drops. Three C-130K (Hercules C Mk.1P) were upgraded and sold to the Austrian Air Force in 2002.

C-130J Super HerculesEdit

The C-130J is the newest version of the Hercules and the only model still in production. Externally similar to
C-130J Hercules cleaning

A C-130J being cleaned.

the classic Hercules in general appearance, the J-model features considerably updated technology. These differences include new Rolls-Royce AE 2100 D3 turboprops with Dowty R391 composite scimitar propellers, digital avionics, and reduced crew requirements. These changes have improved performance over its C-130E/H predecessors, such as 40% greater range, 21% higher maximum speed, and 41% shorter take-off distance. The C-130J's crew includes two pilots and one loadmaster. Its cargo compartment is approximately 41 feet (12.5 m) long, 9 feet (2.7 m) high, and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, and loading is from the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft can also be configured with the "enhanced cargo handling system". The system consists of a computerized loadmaster's station from which the user can remotely control the under-floor winch and also configure the flip-floor system to palletized roller or flat-floor cargo handling. Initially developed for the USAF, this system enables rapid role changes to be carried out and so extends the C-130J's time available to complete taskings.

Foreign orders for the C-130J have been put in by The Royal Australian Air Force, The Canadian Forces Air Command, The Danish Air Force, The Indian Air Force, The Iraqi Air Force, The Israeli Air Force, The Italian Air Force, The Republic of Korea Air Force, The Kuwait Air Force, The Royal Norwegian Air Force, The Royal Air Force of Oman, The Tunisian Air Force, The Qatar Emiri Air Force and The Royal Air Force.

Operational historyEdit


In October and November 1963, a USMC KC-130F (BuNo 149798), loaned to the US Naval Air Test Center, made 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings and 21 unassisted take-offs on the USS Forrestal at a number of different weights. The pilot, LT (later RADM) James H. Flatley III, USN, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in this test series. The tests were highly successful, but the idea was considered too risky for routine "Carrier Onboard Delivery" (COD) operations. In 1958, a US reconnaissance C-130A-II was shot down over Armenia by MiG-17s.

Vietnam Era.Edit

In 1964 C-130 crews from the 6315th Operations Group at Naha AB, Okinawa commenced FAC/Flare missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos supporting USAF strike aircraft. In April 1965 the mission was expanded to North Vietnam where C-130 crews led formations of B-57 bombers on night reconnaissance/strike missions against communist supply routes leading to South Vietnam. In early 1966 Project BLIND BAT/LAMPLIGHTER was established at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand. After the move to Ubon the mission became a four-engine forward air controller (FAC) mission with the C-130 crew searching for targets then calling in strike aircraft. Another little-known C-130 mission flown by Naha-based crews was COMMANDO SCARF, which involved the delivery of chemicals onto sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos that were designed to produce mud and landslides in hopes of making the truck routes impassable.

In November 1964, on the other side of the globe, C-130Es from the 464th Troop Carrier Wing but loaned to 322d Air Division in France, flew one of the most dramatic missions in history in the former Belgian Congo. After a Congolese rebel group named "Simba" took white residents of the city of Stanleyville hostage, the US and Belgian developed a joint rescue mission that used the C-130s to airlift and then drop and air-land a force of Belgian paratroopers to rescue the hostages. Two missions were flown, one over Stanleyville and another over Paulis during Thanksgiving weeks.

In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Pakistan Air Force modified/improvised several aircraft for use as heavy bombers, and attacks were made on Indian bridges and troop concentrations with some successes. No aircraft were lost in the operations, though one was slightly damaged.

In October 1968 a C-130B from the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing dropped a pair of M121 10,000 pound bombs that had been developed for the massive B-36 bomber but had never been used. The US Army and US Air Force resurrected the huge weapons as a means of clearing landing zones for helicopters and in early 1969 the 463rd commenced Commando Vault missions. Although the stated purpose of COMMANDO VAULT was to clear LZs, they were also used on enemy base camps and other targets.


The C-130 was used in the 1976 Entebbe raid in which Israeli commando forces carried a surprise assault to rescue 103 passengers of an airliner hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. The rescue force—200 soldiers, jeeps, and a black Mercedes-Benz (intended to resemble Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin's vehicle of state)—was flown 2,200 nmi (2,532 mi; 4,074 km) from Israel to Entebbe by four Israeli Air Force (IAF) Hercules aircraft without mid-air refueling (on the way back, the planes refueled in Nairobi, Kenya).


Paratroopers boarding a C-130.

During the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas) of 1982, Argentine Air Force C-130s undertook highly dangerous, daily re-supply night flights as blockade runners to the Argentine garrison on the Falkland Islands. They also performed daylight maritime survey flights. One was lost during the war. Argentina also operated two KC-130 tankers during the war, and these refueled both the Skyhawk and Navy Super Etendards which sank 6 British ships. The British also used their C-130s to support their logistical operations. During the Gulf War of 1991 (Operation Desert Storm), the C-130 Hercules was used operationally by the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps, along with the air forces of Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the UK.
C-130 airdrop

A C-130 air dropping an M551 Sheridan.

The AC-130 also holds the record for the longest sustained flight by a C-130. From 22 October to 24 October 1997, two AC-130U gunships flew 36.0 hours nonstop from Hurlburt Field Florida to Taegu (Daegu), South Korea while being refueled 7 times by KC-135 tanker aircraft. This record flight shattered the previous record longest flight by over 10 hours while the 2 gunships took on 410,000 lb (190,000 kg) of fuel.

Recent HistoryEdit


Argentine Paratroopers jump from a C-130 Hercules

During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the ongoing support of the International Security Assistance Force (Operation Enduring Freedom), the C-130 Hercules has been used operationally by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the United States.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), the C-130 Hercules has been used operationally by Australia, the UK and the United States. After the initial invasion, C-130 operators as part of the Multinational force in Iraq used their C-130s to support their forces in Iraq.

One RAF C-130 was shot down on 30 January 2005, when an Iraqi insurgent brought it down firing with a ZU-23 anti-aircraft artillery gun while the plane was flying at 164 ft (50 m) after it had dropped SAS special forces paratroopers.

A prominent C-130T aircraft is Fat Albert, the support aircraft for the US Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team. It is the last existing C-130T. Although Fat Albert supports a Navy squadron, it is operated by the US Marine Corps (USMC) and its crew consists solely of USMC personnel. At some air shows featuring the team, Fat Albert takes part, performing flyovers and sometimes demonstrating its jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) capabilities, but the JATO demonstration ended in 2009 due to dwindling supplies of rockets.



  • Tactical airlifter basic models

C-130J Super Hercules

  • Tactical airlifter, with new engines, avionics, and updated systems


  • Designation for RAF Hercules C1/W2/C3 aircraft (C-130Js in RAF service are the Hercules C.4 and Hercules C.5)

AC-130A/E/H/U Spectre/Spooky

  • Gunship variants


  • Ski-equipped version for snow and ice operations United States Air Force / Air National Guard

CC-130E/H/J Hercules

  • Designation for Canadian Forces Hercules aircraft


  • Drone control


  • EC-130E/J Commando Solo - USAF / Air National Guard psychological operations version
  • EC-130E - Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC)
  • EC-130E Rivet Rider - Airborne psychological warfare aircraft
  • EC-130H Compass Call - Electronic warfare and electronic attack.
  • EC-130V - Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) variant used by USCG for counter-narcotics missions


  • Unmanned aerial vehicle control
HC-130P-N refuels HH-60G

An HC-130P/N refuels an HH-60G.

  • HC-130B/E/H - Early model combat search and rescue
  • HC-130P/N Combat King - USAF aerial refueling tanker and combat search and rescue
  • HC-130J Combat King II - Next generation combat search and rescue tanker
  • HC-130H/J - USCG long-range surveillance and search and rescue


  • Temporary conversion for flight test operations


  • United States Marine Corps aerial refueling tanker and tactical airlifter


  • USAF / Air National Guard - Ski-equipped version for Arctic and Antarctic support operations.


  • MC-130E/H Combat Talon I/II - Special operations infiltration/extraction variant
  • MC-130W Combat Spear/Dragon Spear - Special operations tanker/gunship
  • MC-130P Combat Shadow - Special operations tanker
  • YMC-130H - Three modified under Operation Credible Sport for second Iran hostage crisis rescue attempt


  • Permanent conversion for flight test operations


  • Maritime patrol


  • Surveillance aircraft for reconnaissance


  • Search and rescue


  • Aircrew training


  • VIP transport


  • Weather reconnaissance ("Hurricane Hunter") version for USAF / Air Force Reserve Command in support of the NOAA/National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center

Specifications (C-130H)Edit

General characteristicsEdit


  • 5 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer and loadmaster)


  • 92 passengers or
  • 64 airborne troops or
  • 74 litter patients with 2 medical personnel or
  • 6 pallets or
  • 2–3 HMMWVs or
  • 2 M113 armored personnel carrier


  • 45,000 lb (20,000 kg)


  • 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)


  • 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)


  • 38 ft 3 in (11.6 m)

Wing area:

  • 1,745 ft² (162.1 m²)

Empty weight:

  • 75,800 lb (34,400 kg)

Useful load:

  • 72,000 lb (33,000 kg)

Max takeoff weight:

  • 155,000 lb (70,300 kg)


  • 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,590 shp (3,430 kW) each


Maximum speed:

  • 320 knots (366 mph, 592 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,060 m)

Cruise speed:

  • 292 kn (336 mph, 540 km/h)


  • 2,050 nmi (2,360 mi, 3,800 km)

Service ceiling:

  • 33,000 ft (10,060 m) empty; 23,000 ft (7,077 m) with 42,000 pounds (19,090 kilograms) payload ()

Rate of climb:

  • 1,830 ft/min (9.3 m/s)

Takeoff distance:

  • 3,586 ft (1,093 m) at 155,000 lb (70,300 kg) max gross weight;[46] 1,400 ft (427 m) at 80,000 lb (36,300 kg) gross weight


  • Westinghouse Electronic Systems (now Northrop Grumman) AN/APN-241 weather and navigational radar

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