During the 1950s the versatile Lockheed C-130 Hercules was originally designed as an assault transport
but 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-47
and has accumulated over 20 million flight hours. More than 900 C-130s and
derivatives 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 Air
Force. 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 USAF’s 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-T5 turboprops, a redesigned
outer wing, updated avionics, and other minor improvements. Delivery began in July 1974 [other 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.
U.S. Navy & Marines
The C-130 Hercules first entered naval service in 1960 when four LC-130F's were
obtained for Antarctic support missions. These ski-equipped "Herks" were soon followed by 46 KC-130F
models procured by the Marine Corps in 1962 for the dual role of assault transport and aerial tanker for
fighter and attack aircraft. That same year the Navy obtained seven C-130F's without inflight refueling
equipment to serve its transport requirements. The KC-130F made its first test flight in January 1960 as
the GV-1 under the old Navy designation system. The tanker version can refuel two aircraft
simultaneously from the 3,600 gallons in its cargo compartment. The fuel is routed to two detachable
pylon pods located below the outer wing, containing refueling gear.
In 1965, the Navy procured a number of C-130Gs to provide support to Polaris
submarines and the exchange of their crews. Essentially the same as the F-model, these aircraft have
increased structural strength, allowing higher gross weight operation. All models feature crew and cargo
compartment pressurization, single-point refueling and a Doppler navigation system. The four of these
aircraft were later modified as TACAMO communications relay aircraft and were redesignated EC-130G.
After replacement by the E-6A, three aircraft were returned to transport configuration (albeit with no
cargo ramp) as TC-130Gs, one now serving as the Blue Angels support aircraft, Fat Albert.
One other model, the EC-130Q, served in two VQ squadrons. This version had
More than 145 Hercules aircraft were deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield
and Desert Storm. These aircraft moved units to forward bases once they arrived in the theatre. From 10
August 1990 to the cease-fire, Air Force C-130s flew 46,500 sorties and moved more than 209,000 people
and 300,000 tons of supplies within the Area of Responsibility (AOR). They provided logistical support,
aeromedical evacuation of the wounded, and battlefield mobility once the fighting started. During the
"100-hour" ground campaign, C-130s flew more than 500 sorties a day!
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 cargoes.
Cargo Compartment - The C-130 can carry more than 42,000 pounds
(19,051kg) of cargo. Rollers in the floor of the cargo compartment enable quick and easy handling of cargo
pallets and can be removed to leave a flat surface, if needed. Five 463L pallets (plus a ramp pallet for
baggage) may be loaded onto the aircraft through the hydraulically-operated main loading ramp/door assembly
located in the rear of the aircraft. The ramp can also be lowered to the ground for loading and unloading
of wheeled vehicles. Tie-down fittings for securing cargo are located throughout the compartment.
In its personnel carrier role, the C-130 can accommodate 92 combat troops or 64
fully-equipped paratroopers on side-facing, webbed seats. For aeromedical evacuations, it can carry 74
litter patients and two medical attendants.
Aerial Delivery of Cargo - Three primary methods of aerial
delivery are used for equipment or supplies. In the first, parachutes pull the load, weighing up to 42,000
pounds (19,051kg), from the aircraft. When the load is clear of the plane, cargo parachutes deploy and
lower the load to the ground.
The second method, called the Container Delivery System (CDS), uses the force of
gravity to pull from one to 16 bundles of supplies from the aircraft. When the bundles, weighing up to
2,200 pounds (998kg) each, are out of the aircraft, parachutes deploy and lower them to the ground.
LAPES is the third aerial delivery method. With LAPES, up to 38,000 pounds (17,237kg) of
cargo is pulled from the aircraft by large cargo parachutes while the aircraft is five to 10 feet (3m)
above the ground. The load then slides to a stop within a very short distance.
Wings and Fuel Tanks - The full cantilever wing contains
four integral main fuel tanks and two bladder-type auxiliary tanks. Two external tanks are mounted under
the wings. This gives the C-130 a total usable fuel capacity of approximately 9,530 gallons.
Landing Gear - The modified tricycle-type landing gear consists of
dual nose gear wheels and tandem mains and permits aircraft operation from rough, unimproved runways.
Main gear retraction is vertically, into fuselage blister fairings, and the nose gear folds forward into
the fuselage. Power steering is incorporated into the nose gear.
Electrical Systems - AC electrical power for the C-130H model is
provided by five 40 KVA generators, 4 driven by the engines and one driven by the Auxiliary Power Unit
(APU). On the E-model, the power is supplied by four 40 KVA engine-driven generators, and a 20 KVA
generator driven by the Air Turbine Motor (ATM). DC power is provided from AC sources through four 200
ampere transformer rectifiers and one 24 volt, 36 ampere-hour battery.
Hydraulic Systems - Four engine-driven pumps supply 3,000 psi
pressure to the utility and booster systems. An electric AC motor-driven pump supplies pressure to the
auxiliary system and is backed up by a hand pump. The hydraulic system maintains constant pressure
during zero or negative "g" maneuvers.
A number of military operators use the civilian version of the Hercules, which bears
the Lockheed designation L-100. Certificated in February 1965, the basic L-100 was broadly equivalent to
the C-130E, without pylon tanks or military equipment. The L-100-20 was given plugs fore (5 feet/1.5m) and
aft (3.3 feet/1m) of the wing. The L-100-30 has a full 15-foot (4.6m) fuselage stretch.
Roles and Variants
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.
C-130 Hercules Lands on U.S.S. Forrestal
When one reviews the encyclopedic range of accomplishments by the C-130 Hercules and
its valiant aircrews over the years, surely one of the most astounding took place in October of 1963
when the U.S. Navy successfully landed a Marine Corps KC-130 on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Operation 'Credible Sport'
In 1980, following the failure of Operation "Eagle Claw" (aka
the U.S. military made radical modifications to a C-130H Hercules so it could
take off and land almost like a helicopter. The aircraft was equipped with lift
rockets slanting downward, slowdown rockets facing forward, missile motors facing
backward, and still more rockets to stabilize the plane as it touched down. The
mission land in a Tehran soccer stadium, rescue 53 American
hostages held captive in Iran, and get out...FAST!
Two aircraft received these special modifications and were redesignated YMC-130H.
The first modified plane (#74-1683), created in just
a couple of months, crashed on the runway during a training exercise after a rocket discharged
prematurely and ripped off the aircraft's right wing. The second modified plane (#74-1686)
was never used and is now on display at Robins AFB in Georgia.
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