The C-130 Hercules was born from a request by the United States Air Force for a replacement transport aircraft for the C-119 Flying Boxcar, C-47 Skytrain, and C-46 Commando, which were inadequate for modern warfare after the Korean War. The USAF wanted a plane that could have a capacity of 92 passengers, 72 combat troops or 64 paratroopers fly a range of around 1,100 nautical miles, have the ability to fly with one engine shut down, and be able to take-off from unprepared runways (MotoArt, 2009). Lockheed fired up the engines and eventually won the contract with the USAF with their YC-130 prototype.
The C-130 first took to the skies on August 23, 1954 and flew from Burbank, California to Edwards Air Force Base. Soon after that flight 2,000 C-130 Hercules’ were put into production. When engineers are designing an airplane, most often they have a single purpose in mind for it. This was not the case for the C-130 Hercules. Ranging from cargo transport to scientific research, the C-130 can get the job done easily (MotoArt, 2009). Over 40 different variants of the C-130 were made, making it one of the most versatile transport planes in history (MotoArt, 2009).
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The system was built with speedy loading and unloading in mind. It also was designed with low ramp access in mind with the ramp at rear being about level to a typical truck bed. The system maintains STOL capabilities which make it ideal in the forward operating environment where transportation of supplies, personnel and vehicles is essential (Writer, 2010). The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.
It operates throughout the U. S. Air Force, serving with Air Mobility Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, theater commands, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve Command, fulfilling a wide range of operational missions in both peace and war situations. Basic and specialized versions of the aircraft airframe perform a diverse number of roles, including airlift support, Antarctic ice resupply, aero medical missions, weather reconnaissance, aerial spray missions, and fire fighting duties for the U. S. Forest Service and natural disaster relief missions (Inventors, 2010).
While most people know of the C-130 as a cargo plane, many do not know that it also played strong roles in many offensive operations. The gunship version, AC-130 has been used in every U. S. combat operation since Vietnam, with the exception of a raid on Libya. This plane also holds the record for the longest sustained flight by a C-130, flying 36 hours nonstop from Florida to South Korea. The MC-130 Combat Talon is known for its ability to carry and deploy of the world’s largest conventional bombs, the “Daisy Cutter” and MOAB.
Due to the size and weight of these bombs, they are unable to fit on most current bombers, making the MC-130 a perfect choice. Obviously, the C-130 has been used as a troop and cargo transport in all of the major military operations since its creation, but it has also been utilized by 11 other countries and seen action ranging from the Falklands War to the invasion of Iraq (MotoArt, 2009). In its personnel carrier role, the C-130 can accommodate 92 combat troops or 64 fully equipped paratroops on side facing seats.
For medical evacuations, it carries 74 litter patients and two medical attendants. Paratroopers exit the aircraft through two doors on either side of the aircraft behind the landing gear fairings. The C-130’s design maximum gross weight is 155,000 pounds; 175,000 pounds wartime with a normal landing weight of 130,000 pounds. The operating weight is approximately 80,000 pounds. The airplane is capable of airlifting 92 ground troops, 64 fully equipped paratroopers, or 74 litter patients. It can also carry 45,000 pounds of cargo (FAS, 2010).
The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130 Hercules fleet and will replace aging C-130E’s. The C-130J incorporates state of the art technology to reduce manpower requirements, lower operating and support costs, and provide life cycle cost savings over earlier C-130 models. Compared to older C-130s, the J model climbs faster and higher, flies farther at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance. The C-130 is a stretch version, adding 15 feet to fuselage, increasing usable space in the cargo compartment (Inventors, 2010).
The most significant issue for the C-130 entails the reassignment of CONUS based active duty C-130s from USACOM to USTRANSCOM. As the single manage for DoD transportation, the consolidation of these air mobility assets under USTRANSCOM lends further credence to USTRANSCOM’s single manager charter. The Air Force component of USTRANSCOM, AMC now exercises both service authority and operational control over these forces. This arrangement eliminates confusion and yields more effective and efficient service to the air mobility customer (FAS, 2010).
In conclusion the Hercules is probably the most versatile tactical transport aircraft ever built. From transportation, capsule recovery, helicopter refueling, gun ship and special cargo delivery, the C-130 is a reliable aircraft and will continue to be a workhorse for the US military for many years to come.