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.
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. 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.
Since the C-130 was built for a military request, the plane mostly served in a military role. Over 40 different variants of the C-130 were made however, making it one of the most versatile transport planes in history. Most notably, the C-130 is used for troop & cargo transport, search and rescue, gunship roles, weather reconnaissance, and delivering humanitarian aid. During its’ more than 50 years of service the C-130 has performed in countless missions, both military and humanitarian.
Lockheed AC 130
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 & 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.
The C-130 hasn’t seen much action in the civilian sector besides a cargo transport. Several were removed from storage in the late 1980’s and given to the U.S Forest Service as airtankers to fight wildfires. However, when one crashed due to stress, the entire fleet was grounded in 2004. While it is technically operated by the U.S. Marine Corps, Fat Albert is a prominent C-130. Fat Albert is the support aircraft for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. At some of the air shows the Blue Angels perform at, Fat Albert takes part, performing flyovers and demonstrating its jet-assisted takeoff.
If you ever have a job requiring a large aircraft, chances are the C-130 Hercules can get the job done easily.