Lockheed LC-130

Primary Role: Support of Arctic and Antarctic operations

LC-130s are specially modified with a wheel/ski landing gear configuration for operation in Arctic and Antarctic regions. Originally built for the U.S. Navy, most of these C-130 variants are being handed over to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing. Antarctic Development Squadron 6, more commonly known as VXE-6, supported Operation Deep Freeze for over 44 years!

The LC-130’s predecessor, the C-130D, was first introduced in 1956. During 1957, the U.S. Air Force conducted extensive testing of the wheel/ski configured aircraft (#55-0021) which could be operated from both conventional runways and snow/ice covered surfaces in Arctic regions and for resupply missions to units along the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line. The tests proved the aircraft could successfully do what had already been done by other wheel/ski configured aircraft, like the C-123J.

The wheel/ski configured C-130Ds were only built for the U.S. Air Force. They were, and still are, the largest aircraft to be equipped with skis. The modification involved installation of a nose and two main skis fitted around conventional landing gear. The nose ski measured 10 feet (3m) long by 6 feet (1.8m) wide, while the main skis were 20 feet (6m) long by 6 feet (1.8m) wide. The undersides were coated with Teflon to reduce surface friction and resist adhesion to ice and snow. Each ski weighed approximately 2,000 pounds (907kg).

Ski landings are similar to normal landings, however, takeoffs are another matter. Because of the friction of the skis on the snow, the runs are longer, especially on warmer days when the surface is softer. Under “sticky snow” conditions, eight JATO* (Jet Assisted Takeoff) bottles, installed aft of the main landing gear doors; four on each side, were often used to literally “blast” the aircraft off the snow. Each JATO bottle is capable of adding an extra 1,000 pounds of thrust for approximately 12 seconds during takeoff.

Also, because of the long distances the aircraft was expected to fly, two 450-gallon underwing pylon fuel tanks were installed, and provisions were made for two 500-gallon cargo compartment tanks. In 1966, two 450-gallon tanks were installed in the inboard wing dry-bay area.

The Air Force’s confidence in the C-130D was confirmed when it was later compared with the C-123J. While the C-123J could carry a maximum load of 9,820 pounds (4,454kg) and fly 772 nautical miles (1,430km) and return, the C-130D could carry the same load 1,240 nautical miles (2,296km) and return. In addition, its cruise speed was considerably higher.

*  The British more accurately refer to this system as RATO (Rocket Assisted Takeoff).