In Greek mythology, Hercules rose to an unthinkable level of performance and mastered the twelve tasks placed before him. He tapped an inner strength and achieved a level of greatness that set the performance standard. In 1951, the United States Air Force challenged the civilian aviation development industry to design an aircraft that could do exactly that: achieve a level of performance excellence, allowing it to overcome virtually any operational challenge. Their list of performance requirements was long. Feature highlights called for a rugged medium range transport capable of carrying a 30,000 lb payload of troops or equipment over distances reaching 1,500 nautical miles and with the ability to operate safely from short unimproved surfaces.
The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the intratheater portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for paradropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. Basic and specialized versions perform a diversity of roles, including airlift support, DEW Line and Arctic ice resupply, aeromedical missions, aerial spray missions, fire-fighting duties for the US Forest Service, and natural disaster relief missions. With the end of the Cold War, they have also been used to bring humanitarian relief to many countries, including Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda.
Over four decades have elapsed since the Air Force issued its original design specification, yet the remarkable C-130 remains in production. The turbo-prop, high-wing, versatile "Herc" has accumulated over 20 million flight hours. It is the preferred transport aircraft for many US Government services and over 60 foreign countries. The basic airframe has been modified to hundreds of different configurations to meet an ever-changing environment and mission requirement. The C-130 Hercules has unsurpassed versatility, performance, and mission effectiveness.
The Hercules has been touted as one of, if not the most versatile tactical transport aircraft ever built. Its uses appear almost limitless: transportation, electronic surveillance, search and rescue, space-capsule recovery, helicopter refueling, landing (with skis) on snow and ice, gun ship and special cargo delivery. It has even landed and taken off from a carrier deck without benefit of arresting gear or catapults.
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) fuselage stretch.
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 cargoes.
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 compartment.
In its personnel carrier role, the C-130 can accommodate up to 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 attendants.
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 (19,000kg), from the aircraft. When the load is clear of the plane, cargo parachutes deploy and lower the load to the ground.
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 (1000kg) 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 (17,000kg) of cargo is pulled from the aircraft by large cargo parachutes while the aircraft is 5 to 10 feet (3m) above the ground. The load then slides to a stop within a very short distance.
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