Lockheed C-130 Hercules
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 refuelling 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 intra-theater 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
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
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 refuelling 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 refuelling 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 refuelling 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
a permanently installed VLF radio transmitter system used to supplement
shorebased communications facilities and acted as a strategic
communications aircraft, communicating with ballistic-missile submarines.
* This aircraft lost its left wing to fire during its third flight. It was
repaired and the aircraft was later converted into an AC-130A gunship
which was retired from service on 10 Sept 1995.
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
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
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
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
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"
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)
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 refuelling, 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.
330 kt / 380
4667 km /
span 40.41 m /
132 ft 7 in
length 29.79 m / 97 ft 9 in
height 11.66 m / 38 ft 3 in
kg / 59,328 lb
max. take-off 56,336 kg /
(3,750-eshp) Allison T56-A-1A turboprops