Primary Role: Maritime patrol & search and rescue
The United States Coast Guard was the first recipient of this C-130 variant. When first ordered in 1958, the Lockheed designation was SC-130B, which was later changed to HC-130B after entering service. These specially modified Hercules aircraft featured additional crew posts, two scanner stations offering an unrestricted field of view, and accommodations for 74 litter patients.
With the Coast Guard, this aircraft has multiple roles: search & rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, marine environmental protection, international ice patrol over the North Atlantic, cargo and personnel transport, and military readiness.
The first HC-130H flew on 8 December 1964. This updated version was to primarily perform search and rescue missions. These aircraft also performed tasks related to the U.S. space program. They carried additional equipment and two 1,800-gallon fuel bladders in the cargo compartment. They also had a very unusual, and distinctive feature on top of the fuselage, forward of the wing. This large “blister” contained the Cook Electric re-entry tracking system which was used in conjunction with the Gemini spacecraft.
HC-130s can exceed 2,600 nautical miles (4,815km) in low-altitude flight with a mission endurance of up to 14 hours. Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), Omega, Loran-C, Global Positioning System (GPS), and radar and guidance aids that enhance the HC-130’s effectiveness during long-range maritime patrols. These aircraft are also equipped with a ten-tube flare launch system. U.S. Coast Guard HC-130s are not capable of refueling other aircraft in flight.
Primary Role: Search and rescue & aerial refueling of helicopters
First flown in 1964, the HC-130N/P has served many roles and missions. The aircraft was initially modified to conduct search and rescue missions, provide a command and control platform, and refuel helicopters in flight.
Secondary mission capabilities include performing tactical airdrops of pararescue specialist teams, small bundles, zodiac watercraft, or four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles, providing direct assistance to a survivor in advance of the arrival of a recovery vehicle. Other capabilities are extended visual and electronic searches over land or water, tactical airborne radar approaches and unimproved airfield operations. A team of three pararescue specialists (also known as PJs), trained in emergency trauma medicine, harsh environment survival and assisted evasion techniques, are part of the basic mission crew complement.
Ongoing modifications for the HC-130N/P include an integrated global positioning system (GPS) navigation package, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, airborne integrated satellite communications radios and cockpit armor. Selected aircraft are in the process of being equipped with night vision goggle-compatible interior and exterior lighting, a personnel locator system compatible with aircrew survival radios, an improved digital low-power color radar and forward-looking infrared systems.
The HC-130N/P can fly in the day against a reduced threat; however, crews normally fly night, low-level, air refueling and airdrop operations using night vision goggles (NVG). It can fly low-level NVG tactical flight profiles to avoid detection. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, crews employ tactics that include incorporating no external lighting or communications, and avoiding radar and weapons detection.
See also, MC-130P