During the Cold War period (1947-1991), one of the most important aircraft to emerge from the West became the Lockheed C-130 "Hercules", a medium-class tactical transport utilizing a high-wing layout and quadruple engine arrangement for excellent Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities. Entering service in the 1950s, the type has managed over 2,500 examples into the current decade and remains one of the more reliable and popular transport systems operating anywhere in the world - by airpowers both big and small.
By the 1990s the Hercules was still rooted in its 1950s technology for the most part and a large-scale upgrade of the series was deemed the best effort to keeping the series air worthy for the foreseeable future (the C-130 has been continuously flying for over sixty years!) - especially in dealing with a modern, digitally-driven battlefield. From this initiative arrived the C-130J "Super Hercules", a vastly upgraded version of the aging C-130 line. A first-flight was had on April 5th, 1996 and service introduction followed in 1999. To date (2017), over 300 of the type have been produced and these stock some of the largest modern air services like that of Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Israel, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
While the C-130J retains the same general form and function of its predecessor, it incorporates a slew of modern systems and technologies to make for an improved end-product. One of the more major upgrades is the switch to 4 x Rolls-Royce AE2100 D3 series turboprop engines driving multi-bladed Dowty composite propeller blades. Internally, the cockpit sports a collection of digital displays and fast-processing systems. Head-Up Displays (HUDs), typically seen in combat fighter aircraft, are installed ahead of each pilot's position. Automation is expanded where possible to alleviate mission fatigue and reliance on additional crewmembers for basic tasks - this make a typical flight crew just three personnel to include two pilots and a dedicated loadmaster.
The cargo, accessed via a rear loading ramp under the empennage, hold can carry up to 92 traditional passengers or 64 combat-equipped paratroopers. In the MEDEVAC role, this same space can sustain up to 74 patient litters and accompanying medical staff numbering five. Six pallets of cargo can be hauled or, it their place, three HUMVEE vehicles or a single LAV-25 (or similar) armored combat vehicle. it is this sort of versatility that had garnered the Hercules family line such global recognition.
Dimensions include a length of 97.8 feet, a wingspan of 132.6 feet and a height of 38.9 feet. Empty weight is 75,560lb against an MTOW of 164,000lb. Performance includes a maximum speed of 417mph, a cruising speed of 400mph, a range out to 2,070 miles and a service ceiling up to 40,400 feet (absolute). The C-130J requires just 3,130 feet of runway distance to take-off with a 155,000lb gross weight load.
Compared to the earlier C-130 transport models, the J-model is both faster and flies farther while also requiring much shorter runway travel. Its improved technology means better flow with existing digital communications and satellite equipment being deployed by modern air powers.
The launch customer for the J-model became the British Royal Air Force (RAF) which committed to 25 of the type. The series also serves American special forces and other special mission-minded groups of the United States military. Both the USAF and USMC have operated the J-model in the American commitments over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Variants include the base C-130J airlifter, the stretched C-130J-30 and the C-130J-SOF, the latter an export-minded special operations product. The CC-130J is the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAAF) mark covering the C-130J-30 in service. The C-130J forms the framework of other well-known, in-service Hercules marks like the EC-130J Commando Solo III specops variant, the HC-130J Combat King II USCG Search and Rescue (SAR) model, the KC-130J aerial tanker, the MC-130J Commando II specops model (formerly "Combat Shadow II") and the WC-130J weather reconnaissance platform. The British Royal Air Force recognizes the C-130J-30 as the Hercules C.Mk 4 and the C-130J becomes the Hercules C.Mk 5.
The LM-100J is the civilian market form of the C-130J-30. The SC-130J Sea Hercules is a proposed maritime patroller based on the C-130J.