Lockheed C-130 "Hercules"

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During the 1950s the versatile Lockheed C-130 Hercules was originally designed as an assault transportbut was adapted for a variety of missions, including: special operations (low-level and attack), close air support and air interdiction, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue (SAR), aerial refueling of helicopters, weather mapping and reconnaissance, electronic surveillance, fire fighting, aerial spraying, Arctic/Antarctic ice resupply and natural disaster relief missions.

Currently, the Hercules primarily performs the intratheater portion of the tactical airlift mission. This medium-range aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for paratroop and equipment drops into hostile areas.


On 23 August 1954, the first of two YC-130A test aircraft (#53-3397) made its maiden flight. It was flown from Burbank, California, to Edwards Air Force Base by Stanley Beltz (pilot) and Roy Wimmer (co-pilot). Only the two YC-130 prototypes (#53-3396 was the first built) were assembled at Lockheed's "Skunk Works" plant in Burbank, while more than 2,000 subsequent aircraft have been built in Marietta, Georgia.

The initial production model was the C-130A, with four three-bladed Allison T56-A-9 turboprops. A total of 219 were ordered. The first production C-130A (#53-3129*) flew on 7 April 1955 and deliveries began in December 1956. Two DC-130As (originally GC-130As) were built as drone launchers/directors, carrying up to four drones on underwing pylons. All special equipment was removable, permitting the aircraft to be used as freighters (accommodating five standard freight pallets), assault transports, or ambulances.

Five decades have elapsed since the Air Force issued its original design specification, yet the remarkable C-130 Hercules remains in production. The venerable "Herk" is the most successful military transport since the Douglas C-47and has accumulated over 20 million flight hours. More than 900 C-130s andderivatives have been delivered to the U.S. Air Force during the past 30 years. The aircraft type currently serves in over 60 foreign countries and is expected to remain in production well into the 21st century.

U.S. Air Force

The C-130B entered service in June 1959. A total of 134 were delivered to the AirForce. The B-model introduced the four-bladed Allison T56-A-7 turboprops, carries additional fuel in the wings, and has strengthened landing gear. A few C-130Bs, used for aerial fire fighting missions, are still in service with Air National Guard units. Six C-130Bs were modified in 1961 for mid-air snatch recovery of classified Air Force satellites.

During the Vietnam Conflict, some Air Force C-130As were converted into gunships. In addition to their side-firing 20mm Vulcan cannons and 7.62mm Miniguns, they also possessed sensors, a target acquisition system, and a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) and low-light television system.

Several A-models, redesignated C-130D, were fitted with wheel/ski landing gear for service in the Arctic and for resupply missions to units along the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line. The two main skis are 20 feet (6m) long, 6 feet (1.8m) wide, and weigh about 2,000 pounds (907kg) each. The nose ski is 10 feet (3m) long and 6 feet (1.8m) wide. The D-model also has increased fuel capacity and provision for jet-assisted takeoff (JATO). These were flown by the Air National Guard and have been replaced by the LC-130H variant.

The C-130E is an extended-range development of the C-130B. A total of 369 were ordered and deliveries began in April 1962. The maximum ramp weight of the E-model increased to 155,000 pounds (70,307kg), 20,000 pounds (9,072kg) more than the B-model. Its fuel capacity was increased by over 17,000 pounds (7,711kg). More powerful Allison T-56-A-7A engines were used and a pair of external fuel tanks with a capacity of 1,360 gallons were slung beneath the wings, between the engines. A recent wing modification to correct fatigue and corrosion on the USAFs fleet of E-models has extended the life of the aircraft well into the 21st century.

Similar to the E-model, the C-130H has updated T56-A-T15 turboprops, a redesigned outer wing, updated avionics, and other minor improvements. Delivery began in July 1974 [some sources state April 1975]. More than 350 C-130Hs and derivatives were ordered for active and reserve units of the U.S. services. The H-model has become the most produced of all C-130 models, with orders for 565 as of the end of 1979.


The C-130 design employs a cargo floor at truck-bed height above the ground, an integral "roll on/roll off" rear loading ramp, and an unobstructed, fully-pressurized cargo hold which can rapidly be reconfigured for the carriage of troops, stretchers or passengers. The Hercules can also be committed for airdrops of troops or equipment and for LAPES(Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System) delivery of heavy cargo.

The C-130 Hercules is arguably the most versatile tactical transport aircraft ever built. Its uses appear almost limitless: airlift and airdrop, electronic surveillance, search and rescue, space-capsule recovery, helicopter refueling, landing (with skis) on snow and ice, and aerial attack. It has even landed and taken off from a carrier deck without benefit of arresting gear or catapults.


Official Designation C-130 Hercules
Unofficial Nicknames Herk, Herky Bird, Slick, Fat Albert
Primary Role Intratheater tactical airlift  (See below for other roles)
Original Contractor Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.
Operator Over 60 nations worldwide, including the United States
Wingspan 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4m)
Length 97 feet, 9 inches (29.7m)
Height at Tail 38 feet, 3 inches (11.6m)
Cargo Hold
Length: 52 feet (15.8m);
Width: 10 feet, 3 inches (3.1m);
Height: 9 feet (2.7m)
Horsepower 4,300 shp per engine
Cruise Speed 374 mph (602km/h; Mach 0.5)
Max Speed Unknown
Range 2,047 nm (3,791km) with max payload; 4,522 nm (8,375km) empty
Service Ceiling 33,000 feet (10,058m)
Operating Weight 83,000 pounds (37,648kg)
Fuel Capacity 60,000 pounds (27,216kg)
Max Payload 45,000 pounds (20,412kg)
Number of 463L Pallets Five, plus a baggage pallet on the ramp
Max Takeoff Weight 155,000 pounds (70,307kg)
Basic Crew Five (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, loadmaster)
Date Deployed April 1955
Total in Service Over 2,100 aircraft worldwide
Additional Roles Specialized Model/Variant
Attack Gunship AC-130 (Spectre/Spooky II)
Drone Control DC-130
Combat Communications C-130B (Talking Bird)
Command and Control EC-130E (ABCCC / Commando Solo)
Electronic Warfare EC-130H (Compass Call)
Maritime Patrol HC-130H, EC-130V
Arctic/Antarctic Support LC-130 (formerly C-130D)
Special Operations MC-130E/H (Combat Talon), MC-130P (Combat Shadow)
Aerial Refueling HC-130N/P, MC-130E, MC-130P, KC-130
Search and Rescue HC-130N/P, HC-130H, EC-130V
Weather Reconnaissance WC-130
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C130A C130B C130E
C130A C130B C130E
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