Primary Role: Aerial refueling of helicopters & tactical airlift
The KC-130 is a multi-role, multi-mission tactical tanker/transport which provides the support required by Marine Air Ground Task Forces. This versatile asset provides in-flight refueling to both tactical aircraft and helicopters, as well as rapid ground refueling when required. Additional tasks performed are aerial delivery of troops and cargo, emergency resupply into unimproved landing zones within the objective or battle area, airborne Direct Air Support Center, emergency medevac, tactical insertion of combat troops and equipment, and evacuation missions.
The KC-130 is equipped with a removable 3,600-gallon stainless steel fuel tank that is carried inside the cargo compartment providing additional fuel when required. The two wing-mounted hose and drogue refueling pods each transfer up to 300 gallons per minute 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). Some KC-130s are also equipped with defensive electronic and infrared countermeasures systems. Development is currently under way for the incorporation of interior/exterior night vision lighting, night vision goggle head-up displays, global positioning system, and jam-resistant radios.
The U.S. Marine Corps has chosen the KC-130J tanker to replace its aging KC-130F tanker fleet. The new KC-130J offers increased utility and much needed improvement in mission performance. As a force multiplier, the J-model tanker is capable of refueling both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft as well as conducting rapid ground refueling. The refueling speed envelope has been widened from 100 to 270 knots indicated airspeed, offering more capability and flexibility. Offload rates per refueling pod can be up to 300 gallons per minute simultaneously. The KC-130’s offload is significantly greater than previous Hercules tankers. As an example, at 1,000 nautical miles (1,852km), the fuel offload is well over 45,000 pounds (20,412kg). Rapid ground refueling is also a premium capability. In austere conditions, the KC-130J can refuel helicopters, vehicles, and fuel caches at 600 gallons per minute. Additionally, the unique prop feathering capability while the engines are still running offers safer and more hospitable conditions for ground refueling than in the past.