Lockheed C-130 Hercules Tactical Transport / Multi-role / Multi-Mission Aircraft
The storied Lockheed C-130 Hercules has become a proven and highly versatile tactical transport aircraft.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Easily one of the most successful military aircraft of the post-World War 2 age, the Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" continues in dedicated service today, some sixty years after its first flight. The versatility of this transport became such that a plethora of special mission variants emerged over the course of its steady and lengthy career. Production has reached over 2,300 units with operators ranging from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zambia while the United States remains its largest global operator through its use by special operations forces, airlift squadrons, electronic warfare groups, transport sections and more - all falling under various service banners including that of the Air National Guard and Coast Guard.
The story of the Hercules began in a 1951 United States Air Force (USAF) requirement by which time America was already committed to a new war in Korea. The USAF requirement called for a new tactical-level transport with the ability to take-off and land on rough, unprepared runways in short order. As such, a high-winged, four-engined design was adopted from Lockheed that showcased the needed lift and control and low-altitude, low-speed flight. The design included an elevated flight deck and raised tail unit. The raised cockpit placement offered good views of the terrain ahead as well as the engine installations along each wing leading edge while the elevated tail section cleared the rear base of the aircraft for access to the hold within - the classic transport arrangement now copied by other manufactures the world over. The aircraft would serve as a direct replacement for aging, limited-scope transport types then in service and pressed to their limits over the Korean Peninsula.
The USAF commissioned for a pair of prototypes under the "YC-130" designation during July of 1951 to which then development and construction produced flyable forms, one taking to the air for the first time on August 23rd, 1954. Satisfied with the product, the USAF ordered the type into serial production, this coming from the Lockheed Marietta, Georgia facility - the legacy of the Hercules transport was officially born.
The initial operational model became the C-130A and a production form saw first flight in 1955. The aircraft lacked nose radar seen in future models and instead showcased a "blunt" nose configuration showcased by the YC-130 prototypes. Power was served through 4 x Allison T56-A-9 turboprop engines driving three-bladed propeller units. Quantitative deliveries followed in December of 1956.
With the A-model in service just a few short years, engineers managed an improved design which yielded the C-130B introduced in 1959. By this time, the engines were uprated and now driving four-bladed propeller units with improved efficiency resulting in extended operational ranges. The undercarriage was further reinforced for the rigors of unprepared airfields. The C-130B-II became a specialized electronics reconnaissance form and these featured faux underwing fuel tanks housing antenna equipment. The C-130D (there was no "C-130C" model) became a specialized winter variant of the C-130 complete with landing skis for Arctic-type service. This variant was taken on by the USAF and the Air National Guard.
The next major form emerged as the C-130E which appeared in 1962. More powerful Allison T56-A-7A turboprop engines were introduced with this mark which improved "hot and high" operating performance. Range was again extended through implementation of larger external fuel tanks and the airframe reinforced for battlefield abuses. The new fuel tanks were relocated from outboard of the engine pairing to between each installation. The aircraft's Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was increased which broadened the tactical in-theater hauling capabilities of the design. The avionics suite was addressed for the better. The Canadian Air Force recognized this mark as the "CC-130E".