The C-130 Hercules first entered naval service in 1960 when four LC-130F's were obtained for Antarctic support missions. These ski-equipped Hercules were soon followed by 46 KC-130F models procured by the Marine Corps in 1962 for the dual role of assault transport and aerial tanker for fighter and attack aircraft. That same year the Navy obtained seven C-130F's without inflight refueling equipment to serve its transport requirements. The Hercules, initially designed to specifications laid down by the USAF Tactical Air Command, first flew as the YC-130 in August 1954. The KC-130F made its first test flight in January 1960 as the GV-1 under the old Navy designation system. The tanker version can refuel two aircraft simultaneously from the 3,600 gallons in its cargo compartment. The fuel is routed to two detachable pylon pods located below the outer wing, containing refueling gear.
A Service-Life Extension Program (SLEP), which was performed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was done mainly to correct structural defects. The United States Marine Corps has chosen the KC-130J tanker to replace its aging KC-130F tanker fleet, rather than undertaking a second SLEP. The majority of key Marine Corps aviation equipment is older than the Marines who use it. When the first KC-130F rolled off the assembly line, President Kennedy was beginning his first year as the Commander- in-Chief, underscoring the importance of the KC-130J.
On February 1, 1962, the famous Lockheed KC-130F Hercules joined Marine aviation in the Pacific. With its ability to refuel fighter and attack aircraft, VMR-253 was re-designated Marine Arial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152), and the squadron's primary mission became aerial refueling. Less than a year after receiving the Hercules aircraft, the pilots and Marines of VMGR-152 were deployed in-country with Marine Expeditionary Forces to support F-4s and A-4s used by Marine tactical squadrons in Vietnam.
Navy Lt. Jim Flatley made history in 1963 by landing a C-130 transport on the deck of an aircraft carrier. It wasn't an emergency - it was a test to determine whether a Hercules could be used as a "Super COD" (carrier on-board delivery) aircraft. Flatley and his crew proved that the Hercules' short-field landing ability applies on the sea as well as in the dirt. The feasibility of landing a C-130 with a substantial payload on a carrier had been clearly demonstrated, but in the end, simply wasn't practical.
A total of 21 full-stop landings and 29 touch-and-go landings were made on four separate trips to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in 1963. The trials aircraft, an in-service Marine Corps KC-130F tanker, underwent only minor modifications at Lockheed's plant in Marietta in early October 1963 prior to the carrier tests.
The first test took place on October 30 near Jacksonville, Fla. The Forrestal's flight deck had been cleared-the arresting wires had been removed since the KC-130F had no tail hook and the air wing's aircraft were either flown ashore or had been parked on the hangar deck. As the result of bad weather (40-knot winds with gusts to 60 knots), the crew made 42 approaches to the ship to get 19 touch-and-go landings in on the first day.
On November 8, Flatley, Lt. Cmdr. W. W. "Smokey" Stovall (the copilot), Brennan, and Lockheed test pilot Ted Limmer approached the Forrestal underway off Cape Cod, Mass. Flatley put the propellers into reverse pitch while still 10-15 feet in the air and settled on the deck. At touchdown, the KC-130 was in full reverse and stopped in 270 feet.
The KC-130 weighed 85,000 pounds on the first landing, and landings were made in progression up to a gross weight of 121,000 pounds. At maximum weight, the crew used only 745 feet for takeoff and 460 feet for landing. One landing at a weight of 109,000 pounds required 495 feet to stop and that was in a heavy squall. At the end of the tests, the crew simply took off from the point on the deck where they had stopped. On takeoff, there was only 15 feet clearance between the KC-130's wingtip and the ship's control "island."
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