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Type STOL military transport aircraft
Manufacturer Lockheed Corporation
Introduction December 1956
Status In service
Number built 2,262
Cost $66.5 million

The venerable Lockheed C130 transport aircraft is known in British service as the 'Hercules'. Primarily used for shifting large amounts of duty free alcohol and cigarettes back to the UK, for onward sale round the back of most pubs in the Brize Norton and Lyneham areas, it has also been successfully adapted by the RAF for transporting small amounts of non-duty free cargo (when space allows), and sometimes even personnel. It should be remembered that as the result of CAA regulations, non RAF aircrew flying in Hercules's may not transport anything that is slightly pointy or can be made to go bang. There are no exceptions to this, so 16 Air Assault Brigade can forget any notions they might have about parachute or TALO operations: movers won't allow it.

The C130 has been the world's most prolific military tactical heavy-lift aircraft for nearly 40 years. The Hercules C1 first entered RAF service in 1968, replacing the Blackburn Beverley and the Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy. Not a great difference in lift capacity between the Beverley and the Herc, just an enormous range advantage - about 8 x the range of the old boxcar. I flew to Northern Ireland in 1969 in a Royal Air Force Herc C1: cramped, noisy, & uncomfortable. 36 years later, I flew in a Royal Australian Air Force C130J: cramped, noisy, & uncomfortable. (Why change a winning combination?)

The Herc has served in dozens of air forces worldwide, & continues to provide invaluable service to our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Falklands, East Timor - in short, anywhere that troops require heavy-lift resup, reinforcement, CASEVAC or MEDEVAC, often using short and primitive bush runways.

The C130 is affectionately known to NATO air and ground crew alike as the "Fat Albert" and the Hercules pilot generally enjoys the same esteem in the aviating community as an illiterate Bosnian goat herder at the Monaco Grand Prix. A favourite stunt by the Air Load master ( a mover with GCSE's who doesn't get airsick ) is to point out the tiny port hole windows to baby Paras on their first jump and inform them that it is their only means of exit from the aircraft once airborne. Even if it were possible to open it an anorexic whippet without a parachute would struggle to get through. The bewildered looks of panic on the baby Paras' faces is the cause of many a late night chuckle in the mess.

When deploying on detachment an RAF Squadron will cram all the ground support equipment, rations, spares, kit and ground crew into the one Fat Albert that has been designated for the task. The mechanic who can endure a noisy, cramped 15 hour flight with a towing arm up one nostril and a spanner up his catflap without complaining is a rare beast.

Thanks to the mighty dollar US Air Force Squadrons on the other hand generally task separate Fat Alberts for the transportation of men, machinery, barbecue equipment, baseball kit, Budweiser and Coca Cola. Also, to date the C130 is one of the few aircraft capable of delivering the notorious "Daisy Cutter" bomb, the munition that did so much to eradicate Osama Bin Laden's DNA from the gene pool. Also the C130 is a very old aircraft and is liable to fall to pieces at any moment.

In the mid-1990s, a select group of RAF staff officers drew up outline plans for the Air Defence variant (Hercules F5). This entailed installing rotary AMRAAM dispensers under the wings, capable of being mechanically reloaded in flight from additional weapon stocks in the cargo hold. The F5 was intended to operate in conjunction with a dedicated AWACS ac. Long-range target detection would result in the F5 discharging numerous AMRAAM in the general direction of the "incoming raid". AAR would enable the F5/AWACS pair to remain on station for several days. The plan foundered when the staff group sobered up and found they had lost the beer mat on which they had scribbled the draft OR.



  • General characteristics
    • Crew: 4-6: at least 2 pilots,1 flight engineer (eliminated in the J variant, replaced by crew chief), and 1 loadmaster; additional loadmaster and navigator are usually part of the crew
  • Capacity:
    • 92 passengers or
    • 64 airborne troops or
    • 74 litter patients with 2 medical personnel
    • Payload: 45,000 lb (20,000 kg) including 2-3 Humvees or an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier
    • Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)
    • Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
    • Height: 38 ft 3 in (11.6 m)
    • Wing area: 1,745 ft² (162.1 m²)
    • Empty weight: 83,000 lb (38,000 kg)
    • Useful load: 72,000 lb (33,000 kg)
    • Max takeoff weight: 155,000 lb (70,300 kg)
    • Powerplant: 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,300 shp (3,210 kW) each
  • Performance
    • Maximum speed: 329 knots (379 mph, 610 km/h)
    • Cruise speed: 292 knots (336 mph, 540 km/h)
    • Range: 2,050 nm (2,360 mi, 3,800 km)
    • Service ceiling: 33,000 ft (10,000 m)

also see

AC-130 Spooky

Airbus A400m