The C-130: A Transport and Much More

Updated on July 1, 2018
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Fat Albert during a Flight Demonstration at Andrews AFB, MDA C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration. Andrews AFB, May 1998.A Hurricane Hunter C-130, tail number 50966, on display at Andrews AFB, TX.A C-130 during a mass parachute drop at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2006.A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2004.A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.  This C-130, serial number AF65-0981, has the "Let's Roll" emblem.A close up of AF65-0981's "Let's Roll" emblem.A C-130.A C-130 in flight.C-130s during a mass parachute jump.Paratroopers jumping out of a C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews, AFB, MD.Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping out of a C-130, Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MDA USAF C-130 over Andrews, AFB.A USAF C-130 over Andrews AFB, MDA drone equipped U.S. Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 in flight.A C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews AFB, MDA C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration.A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration.A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration, Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 during a mass parachute drop, Andrews AFB, MD.Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping from a C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD.Paratroopers jumping from a C-130 during a mass parachute drop.A US Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MDA C-130 at Andrews AFB, MDA C-130 landing at Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MDA C-130 taking off at Andrews AFB, MD.The C-130 of the US Navy Flight Demonstration team, The Blue Angels.  Their C-130 is nicknamed Fat Albert.The Blue Angels C-130 transports the team's ground crew and equipment.  It also puts on an impressive demonstration.  Fat Albert is demonstrating a Rocket Assist Tale-off (RATO).Fat Albert shows how a C-130 with RATO can quickly take off on a short runway.Fat Albert during a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD.Fat Albert During a turn.Fat Albert landing after a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD.A C-130 over Andrews AFB.A USMC KC-130 with its refueling drogues out.  Washington, DC, June 1991.  During the Desert Storm victory parade.
Fat Albert during a Flight Demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD
Fat Albert during a Flight Demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration. Andrews AFB, May 1998.
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration. Andrews AFB, May 1998. | Source
A Hurricane Hunter C-130, tail number 50966, on display at Andrews AFB, TX.
A Hurricane Hunter C-130, tail number 50966, on display at Andrews AFB, TX. | Source
A C-130 during a mass parachute drop at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2006.
A C-130 during a mass parachute drop at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2006. | Source
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2004.
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD, May 2004. | Source
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.  This C-130, serial number AF65-0981, has the "Let's Roll" emblem.
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD. This C-130, serial number AF65-0981, has the "Let's Roll" emblem. | Source
A close up of AF65-0981's "Let's Roll" emblem.
A close up of AF65-0981's "Let's Roll" emblem. | Source
A C-130.
A C-130. | Source
A C-130 in flight.
A C-130 in flight. | Source
C-130s during a mass parachute jump.
C-130s during a mass parachute jump. | Source
Paratroopers jumping out of a C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews, AFB, MD.
Paratroopers jumping out of a C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews, AFB, MD. | Source
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping out of a C-130, Andrews AFB, MD.
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping out of a C-130, Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD
A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A USAF C-130 over Andrews, AFB.
A USAF C-130 over Andrews, AFB. | Source
A USAF C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD
A USAF C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A drone equipped U.S. Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.
A drone equipped U.S. Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.
A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 in flight.
A C-130 in flight. | Source
A C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews AFB, MD
A C-130 during a mass parachute jump at Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration.
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration. | Source
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration.
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration. | Source
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration, Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 during a fire retardant demonstration, Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 during a mass parachute drop, Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 during a mass parachute drop, Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping from a C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD.
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping from a C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
Paratroopers jumping from a C-130 during a mass parachute drop.
Paratroopers jumping from a C-130 during a mass parachute drop. | Source
A US Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD.
A US Navy C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD
A USAF C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A C-130 landing at Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 landing at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD
A C-130 at Andrews AFB, MD | Source
A C-130 taking off at Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 taking off at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
The C-130 of the US Navy Flight Demonstration team, The Blue Angels.  Their C-130 is nicknamed Fat Albert.
The C-130 of the US Navy Flight Demonstration team, The Blue Angels. Their C-130 is nicknamed Fat Albert. | Source
The Blue Angels C-130 transports the team's ground crew and equipment.  It also puts on an impressive demonstration.  Fat Albert is demonstrating a Rocket Assist Tale-off (RATO).
The Blue Angels C-130 transports the team's ground crew and equipment. It also puts on an impressive demonstration. Fat Albert is demonstrating a Rocket Assist Tale-off (RATO). | Source
Fat Albert shows how a C-130 with RATO can quickly take off on a short runway.
Fat Albert shows how a C-130 with RATO can quickly take off on a short runway. | Source
Fat Albert during a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD.
Fat Albert during a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
Fat Albert During a turn.
Fat Albert During a turn. | Source
Fat Albert landing after a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD.
Fat Albert landing after a flight demonstration at Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD.
A C-130 over Andrews AFB, MD. | Source
A C-130 over Andrews AFB.
A C-130 over Andrews AFB. | Source
A USMC KC-130 with its refueling drogues out.  Washington, DC, June 1991.  During the Desert Storm victory parade.
A USMC KC-130 with its refueling drogues out. Washington, DC, June 1991. During the Desert Storm victory parade. | Source

Overview

In 1951 the United States Air Force (USAF) issued design specifications for a transport plane. Lockheed built the C-130A Hercules. The YC-130 made its first flight on August 23, 1954. It is still in production and holds the record from the longest continuous production run for military aircraft.[i] The USAF ordered 219 of these turboprop aircraft. Lockheed began deliveries in December 1956. Lockheed developed the C-130B and these entered Air Force service in May 1959. The latest C-130, the C-130J, entered the USAF inventory in 1999 and the USAF has taken delivery of 77 C-130Js[ii]. As of May 2014, the USAF had 428 C-130s in its inventory.[iii] The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and 62 other countries fly the C-130.[iv] Some commercial airlines use the LM-100, the civilian version of the Hercules. Lockheed has sold over 2,500 Hercules aircraft.


[i] Lockheed Martin web site, https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/c130/history.html, last accessed 5/28/2018.

[ii] USAF Fact Sheet, C-130, http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104517/c-130-hercules/, last accessed 5/30/2018.

[iii] 145 Active force, 181 Air National Guard, 102 Reserve

[iv] Lockheed Martin web site, https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/c130/history.html, last accessed 5/28/2018.

Stats: The C-130 and the aircraft it replaced

 
C-130
C-119
C-47
Speed
384mph
243mph
299mph
Range
2,487 (max Payload), 5,135 (max fuel)
990 miles
2,125 miles
Cargo Capacity
45,000lbs cargo lbs
20,000 lbs
7,500 lbs
Troop Capacity
, 92 troops, 64 paratroopers, or 74 casualty liters
62 troops
28 troops ir 18 casualty liters, Max overload 74 troops.

Variants

The C-130 was designed as a medium range transport. C-130s comprise the tactical portion of military airlift. They can operate from dirt airstrips. It can carry 45,000 pounds (20,400 kilos) or cargo 2,487 miles (3,980 kilometers) on internal fuel.[i] It can transport 92 combat troops, or 64 paratroopers, or 74 casualty liters.

The C-130J-30 is a stretch version of the Hercules. Its fuselage is 15 feet longer than conventional C-130s. It can transport 128 combat troops or 92 paratroopers.[ii]

The AC-130 family is an attack version. They are armed with a variety of guns to rain artillery down on enemy targets. The first AC-130 Gunship made its first flight on 1966. The USAF deployed the AC-130A in 1968 and the AC-130H in 1969. The USAF deployed the AC-130U Spooky in 1995. The USAF AC-130J was officially renamed the Ghostrider in May 2012. It completed its developmental test in June 2015. The Air Force expects to receive the last AC-130J in 2021.

The EC-130 family is an airborne tactical weapon system version. This version is designed to disrupt enemy command and control communications.

The MC-130 family is a special mission version. The first MC-130, the MC-130E Combat Talon I was introduced in 1966. Lockheed built 18 MC-130Es. The MC-130P Combat Shadow came out in 1986 and Lockheed built 28 of them. The MC-130H Combat Talon II was introduced in 1991 and Lockheed built 24 of them. The MC-130W Combat/Dragon Spear came out in 2006 and Lockheed built 12. The USAF later designated them the AC-130W. Lockheed also developed the MC-130J Commando II and, so far, 37 have been built. Contrary to what is usually expected the unit costs for the MC-130W and WC-130J, $60 and 67.3 million respectively, cost less than the $75 million cost for the MC-130E. The most expensive MC-130 version was the MC-130H with a unit cost of $155 million.

The HC-130 family includes the HC-130P/N and HC-130J. These are Personnel Recovery platforms.

The KC-130 family is a tanker version. The primary users of these airborne tankers are the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The first tanker version, the KC-130F, was introduced in 1962. The USMC retired the KC-130F in 2006. The latest tanker version, the KC-130J, was introduced in April 2004.

The WC-130 family is a weather reconnaissance version. These aircraft are sometimes referred to as “Hurricane Hunters”. These aircraft penetrate tropical cyclones at altitudes ranging from 500 to 10,000 feet (150 to 3,000 meters). The latest version, the WC-130J has a maximum endurance of 18 hours. The typical weather reconnaissance mission lasts 11 hours and covers 3,500 miles (5,600 km). The first weather reconnaissance Hercules, a WC-130B became operational in 1959. Circa 1990 there was talk about getting the Air Force out of the weather reconnaissance business but the Air Force Reserve is still flying weather reconnaissance missions with C-130s. The latest weather reconnaissance version is the WC-130J.

The L-100 and LM-100J are civilian variants of the C-130. The L-100 made its first flight on April 20, 1964. Lockheed introduced the aircraft on September 30, 1965. Its prime users are the Indonesian Air Force, Safair, Lynden Air Cargo, and Transafric International. The LM-100J, the civilian version of the C-130J, made its first flight on May 25, 2017.

[i] USAF Fact Sheet, C-130, http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/1529693/c-130-hercules/, last accessed 5/30/2018.

[ii] USAF Fact Sheet, C-130, http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/1529693/c-130-hercules/, last accessed 5/30/2018.

In 20th Century Combat

C-130s have been used in almost every large-scale operation of the United States military since 1960. During the Vietnam Conflict the U.S. used C-130s as a transport. Later the USAF deployed AC-130s to attack ground targets. The USAF lost 55 C-130s, 34 to enemy action, in Southeast Asia. The first loss was on April 24, 1965 when a C-130A, crashed near Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB), Thailand. All 6 crew members died in the crash. The final loss was a C-130E that was destroyed by rocket fire at Tan Son Nut Air Base on April 28, 1975.[i]

The USAF had an AC-130A test program from September 1967 – December 1967. The test evaluation stated the AC-130 had three times the combat effectiveness of the AC-47 gunships. The AC-130A began combat operations in February 1968. This single aircraft flew combat missions until December. It destroyed 228 trucks and 9 sampans. It damaged another 133 trucks. The number of AC-130s flying missions in Vietnam increased to 6 by the spring of 1969.[ii] The first AC-130 loss occurred on May 24, 1969 when enemy 37mm first struck an AC-130A, serial number 54-1629, over Laos[iii]. The Spectre crash landed at Ubon RTAFB. One crew member died of injures before the plane crash landed. Another crew member also died. The 11 other crew members survived the crash. In December 1969 an AC-130 was armed with a 20 mm Vulcan cannon and two 40 mm Bofors cannon. This gunship also had advanced electronics. During this aircraft’s 38-day evaluation it destroyed 178 trucks and an antiaircraft site. It damaged an additional 63 trucks and 2 antiaircraft sites. During the winter of 1971/72 AC-130s destroyed 10,000 vehicles and 223 watercraft.[iv] The last AC-130 loss was in 1972. All 6 Spectre losses in Southeast Asia were due to enemy fire. The last AC-130 combat mission for the Vietnam Conflict was on August 15, 1973. This mission was over Cambodia.[v]

The MC-130E Combat Talon also saw extensive service in the Vietnam Conflict. It was used in the 1970 attempt to rescue American POWs believed to be at the Son Tay POW camp. The U.S. lost 2 aircraft in the raid and its one casualty was a broken ankle. U.S. forces believe they killed at least 100 North Vietnamese troops.[vi] The raid itself was flawless but the POW camp was empty.

With the fall of South Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces 42 C-130As were captured by North Vietnamese forces. On April 29, 1975 a South Vietnamese C-130, piloted by Major Phyong, became the last South Vietnamese C-130 to leave Vietnam. This C-130 flew 452 people out of Vietnam. There were 32 people in the cockpit. The aircraft landed at Utapao, Thailand. This was a record for the number of people flown in a C-130. The aircraft, tail number 56-0518, flew with the U.S. Air National guard until June 28, 1989. It is on permanent display at Little Rock Air Force Base.[vii]

The Turkish Air Force used C-130s to drop paratroopers over Cyprus during the 1974 conflict. In 1976 Israeli Air Force C-130s transported 100 commandos in the Entebbe Raid. The Israeli commandos rescued 102 of the 106 hostages.[viii] Retired Israeli Air Force Brigadier General Joshua Shani, then commander of the C-130 squadron said: “We knew the only aircraft that could fly to Uganda and do the mission was the C-130.”[ix]

An Egyptian C-130E transported commandos during a hostage rescue attempt at Nicosia in 1978. Cypriot National Guard forces opened fire on the Egyptian commandos. The Cypriots destroyed the C-130H with a 106 mm anti-tank missile. The missile killed the C-130’s three crew members. The Cypriots killed 15 commandos in the fighting.[x]

The USAF used three MC-130s and three EC-130s in the failed 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission. The MC-130s carried an assault force of 118 troops to a site designated Desert One. The EC-130s’ mission was to refuel the RH-53D helicopters at Desert One. The RH-53s were to take the assault force to Tehran to rescue the hostages. Two of the RH-53s didn’t reach Desert One. One of the six RH-53s that reached Desert One had mechanical problems and couldn’t complete the mission. The U.S. aborted the mission. When they were preparing to abandon Desert One an RH-53’s rotor blade struck an EC-130. This destroyed both aircraft and killed 5 airmen and 3 marines[xi]. The Special Operations Force abandoned the RH-53s and the C-130s flew the assault force to Masirah[xii].

Both sides used C-130s in the Falkland War. The Argentine Air Force used 7 C-130s and 2 KC-130s. The KC-130s carried out refueling missions. This enabled carrier-based A-4 Skyhawks to carry out bombing missions without putting Argentina’s aircraft carrier, 25 de Mayo, at risk. The C-130s, and other transports, would fly under the radar to resupply Argentina forces on The Falklands. On June 1, 1982 Captain Ruben Martel flew a C-130 resupply mission. On the return flight Captain Martel decided to make a sweep for British ships. Captain Martel flew his C-130 above the radar horizon. The British frigate HMS Minerva found him. Two Royal Navy Sea Harriers were vectored to intercept the C-130. Lieutenant Commander Nigel Ward damaged the C-130 with a sidewinder missile then finished it off with 30 mm cannon fire. Captain Martel and the other 6 Hercules crew members died in the shoot down.[xiii] This was the only Argentine aircraft lost on these resupply missions. The C-130s flew 39 resupply missions. They delivered 400 tons of equipment and evacuated 264 wounded. The equipment delivered included 155 mm cannons and surface-launched Exocet missiles. One of these Exocet missiles seriously damaged the destroyer HMS Glamorgan on June 12. The missile failed to explode but it still killed 13 crew members and wounded 17.[xiv]

The Argentine Air Force also used a C-130 as a makeshift bomber. On May 29 a C-130 attacked the auxiliary support tanker British Wye with 8 bombs. One bomb hit the tanker but bounced off. The bomb didn’t explode and the ship suffered only minor damage. A Hercules made a bombing attack on June 8. The attack was on the US-leased tanker Hercules. The bombs failed to explode but the Hercules was scuttled.[xv]

On the RAF side Number 47 Squadron C-130s flew resupply mission from Ascension Island from May 16, 1982. The British hastily fitted these C-130s with refueling probes.

When the U.S. invaded Grenada an AC-130H was the first aircraft over the island in Operation Urgent Fury. The AC-130 made a high-speed pass over Point Salines to examine the runway and the anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) threat. The pass drew enemy fire and the AC-130 crew determined the guns weren’t radar guided. The crew then radioed its findings to an EC-130E Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center. Rangers parachuted out of an MC-130 over Point Salines at 500 feet (150 meters). When the second MC-130 had to abort because of heavy AAA fire an AC-130 neutralized the threat. The MC-130 dropped its Rangers and 10 minutes later 5 C-130s dropped their troops over Point Salines. AC-130s continued to provide ground support to the Rangers. The Point Salines runway was partially obstructed and the short landing area made the C-130 a more practical transport for use at the airfield than the C-141. Some C-141s used the Point Salines airfield, probably the most well-known use was the evacuation of American medical students. An EC-130E “Coronet Solo II” from the 193d Electronic Combat Group of Pennsylvania Air National Guard provided low-power radio programing by loudspeaker as part of the Psychological Operations (PSYOP) campaign. EC- and MC-130s also dropped leaflets as part of the PSYOP campaign.[xvi]

During the 1989 invasion of Panama AC-130s destroyed the Panamanian Defense Force headquarters and numerous other command and control facilities. C-130s flew U.S. Army Rangers to Rio Hato where the Rangers jumped out. The Rangers captured the base after a 5-hour fight. AC-130s and army helicopters provided most of the close air support during Operation Just Cause. After the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested deposed Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega a C-130 flew him to the United States.[xvii]

C-130s flew 47,000 sorties during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They flew over 300,000 tons of cargo and 209,000 troops.[xviii] Four EC-130E Volant Solo II aircraft began PSYOPs at the end of August 1990.[xix] This was five months before Desert Shield became Desert Storm. An Iraqi SAM shot down an AC-130 on January 31, 1991. The AC-130 was supporting Saudi and U.S. Marine forces during the battle of Khafji. The AC-130 was operating in the daylight when the SAM shot it down and killed all 14 crew members. The USAF used MC-130s to drop BLU-82 bombs out of their open cargo bay door. These 15,000-pound bombs were nicknamed “Daisy Cutters”. On one mission the MC-130s struck a minefield. The spectacular explosion, and the secondary explosions, convinced the Iraqis the invasion had begun. The Iraqis turned on their air defense radars. In doing so the Iraqis revealed the positions of their air defense radars. Some of these positions were unknown to the allies. On February 7, 1991 a two-ship formation of MC-130Es, led by Major Skip Davenport, each dropped a BLU-82 bomb. This convinced an Iraqi battalion commander and his staff to surrender. The Iraqi commander provided maps of minefields along the Kuwait border. AC-130H Spectre gunships and F-15Es were the “backbone of aerial attacks on the Republican Guard” during their retreat from Kuwait.[xx] After Operation Desert Storm MC-130s flew Operation Northern Watch missions over Northern Iraq.

During Operation Allied Force USAF and RAF C-130s delivered supplies. An EC-130E Commando Solo of the 193rd Special Operations Wing transmitted messages to the Serbs. A C-130 supported a successful attack on a Yugoslavian SA-6 site. On March 27, 1999 a Yugoslavian SA-3 shot down an F-117 flown by Lt. Col. Dale Zelko. An MC-130 supported the successful rescue of Lt. Col. Zelko. AC-130s began flying sorties against Yugoslavian forces on April 14, 1999. The U.S. didn’t mention their participation in the Operation Allied force until May 20, 1999.


[i] Vietnam War, Aircraft Losses During the Vietnam War, http://vietnamwar-database.blogspot.com/2010/11/aircraft-losses-during-vietnam-war.html, last accessed 5/30/2018.

[ii] The AC-130 Gunship and the Vietnam War, http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/the-ac-130-gunship-and-the-vietnam-war, last accessed 6/9/2018.

[iii] Pretester’s Aircraft in Vietnam, http://www.petester.com/html/AC041.html, last accessed 6/2/2018.

[iv] The AC-130 Gunship and the Vietnam War, http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/the-ac-130-gunship-and-the-vietnam-war, last accessed 6/2/2018.

[v] The AC-130 Gunship and the Vietnam War, http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/the-ac-130-gunship-and-the-vietnam-war, last accessed 6/2/2018.

[vi] Vietnam War: Raid on Son Tay, https://www.thoughtco.com/vietnam-war-raid-on-son-tay-2361348, last accessed, 5/30/2018.

[vii] History: Last Plane Out of Saigon, June 15, 2014, http://wethearmed.com/military-and-law-enforcement/history-last-plane-out-of-saigon/, last accessed 5/30/2018.

[viii] Three hostages were killed during the rescue. Idi Amin Dada had Dora Bloch, a 74-year old woman, murdered in a hospital in Kampala. Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahi, the raid commander, was the only Israeli Defense Force fatality.

[ix] Fighters Over Israel by Lon Nordeen © 1990, P. 155.

[x] The American late-night comedy show, Saturday Night Live, spoofed the mission by showing a fake movie trailer for the movie “Raid on Nicosia”.

[xi] Those killed were: USAF Major Richard L. Bakke, USAF Major Harold L. Lewis, USAF Major Lyn D. McIntosh, USAF Captain Charles T. McMillan II, USAF Technical Sergeant Joel C. Mayo, USMC Staff Sergeant Dewey L. Johnson, USMC Sergeant John D. Harvey, and USMC Corporal George N. Holmes Jr. Three other marines and one airman were injured.

[xii] Crisis in Iran: Operation EAGLE CLAW, by Edward T. Russell, https://media.defense.gov/2012/Aug/23/2001330106/-1/-1/0/Eagleclaw.pdf, last accessed 6/3/2018.

[xiii] Air War South Atlantic by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price © 1983 by Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd.

[xiv] Air War South Atlantic by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price © 1983 by Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd.

[xv] Air War South Atlantic by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price © 1983 by Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd.

[xvi] Air War Greneda by Stephen Harding, © 1984.

[xvii] Air Force Magazine, A Small War in Panama by John T. Correll, December 2009, http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2009/December%202009/1209panama.aspx, last accessed 6/9/2018.

[xviii] Airpower in the Gulf, by James P. Coyne, © 1992 by the Air Force Association, P. 132.

[xix] Airpower in the Gulf, by James P. Coyne, © 1992 by the Air Force Association, P. 147.

[xx] Airpower in the Gulf, by James P. Coyne, © 1992 by the Air Force Association, P. 80.

In 21th Century Combat

USAF C-130s flew U.S., British, and French troops into Macedonia as during Operation Essential Harvest.

On October 1, 2001 C-130s flew support personnel into Jacobabad Air Base, Pakistan. On October 15 two AC-130s began Operation Enduring Freedom missions. In October an AC-130 attacked a Taliban installation at Chuker. On October 19 U.S. Army Rangers parachuted out of MC-130s to attack targets in Afghanistan while an AC-103 provided air support for the operation. C-130s dropped BLU-82 bombs onto Taliban targets. An AC-130 attacked al-Qaeda’s Zawar Kili camp on January 3, 2002. B-1Bs and U.S. Navy fighters also attacked the camp. The AC-130 video taped the B-1B and Navy fighter attacks. A USMC KC-130R crashed in Shamsi, Pakistan killing all seven Marines on board. A USAF MC-130P crashed on February 13. There were no fatalities. An AC-130 supported UK Royal Marines an operation where the Royal Marines found an arms cache. The AC-130 dropped flairs when angry villagers confronted the Royal Marines. An AC-130 supported Australian troops during a firefight on May 17. A USAF MC-130H crashed in Afghanistan on June 12. Sergeant First Class Peter P. Tycz (USA), Technical Sergeant Sean M. Corlew (USAF), and Staff Sergeant Anissa A. Shero (USAF) died in the incident. An AC-130 attacked a suspected anti-aircraft site. The attack killed 48 civilians and wounded 117 others. Two Italian Air Force C-130s flew exiled king Mohammed Zahir Shah and his entourage back to Afghanistan. A C-130 air dropped 38,088 gallons of fuel in support of Operation Eagle Fury, February 2003. A C-130, call sign “Grim 31”, saved 82 soldiers, two HH-60s and their crew, on March 2. The C-130 crew was awarded the Clarence MacKay Trophy for this action. An MC-130 won the Major General Thomas E. Marchbanks Jr. Award for an emergency refueling of four MH-53 helicopters. A C-130 crashed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on October 2, 2015. The crash killed 6 airmen and 5 civilian contractors. The next day an AC-130 attacked a hospital of Doctors Without Borders and killed 9 staff members and 13 patients.[i]

In March 2004 two C-130s flew 19 tons of aid to Chadian troops who were fighting against terrorists in Chad. In May 2007 an AC-130E Spectre supported ground forces. The C-130’s commander and navigator were awarded the 2007 Cheney Award for bravery in a humanitarian venture. On August 31, 2007 a C-130 carrying Congressional Observers war fired on from the ground.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom AC-130s supported British forces in their capture of al-Faw. RAF 47 Squadron, a C-130 squadron, earned the Battle Honor IRAQ 2003 with right to emblazon. An HC-130 crew, along with two HH-60 crews won the Jolly Green Association 2003 Rescue Mission of the Year Award. USMC C-130s air dropped supplies for the first time since the Vietnam Conflict. On May 20, 2004 USMC KC-130s air dropped 22,000 pounds of food and bottled water to U.S. Marines. It was the second Marine air drop during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On November 5, 2004 ground fire damaged a USAF C-130. On January 30, 2005 enemy ground fire shot down a RAF C-130K, killing 10 on board. In another incident small arms fire struck a Royal Australian Air Force C-130 and killed a soldier on board. The C-130 crew of the “Train 60” mission won the 2005 Clarence MacKay Trophy. MC-130P Combat Shadows of the 9th Special Operations Squadron flew 8,221 sorties and logged over 12,000 flight hours. MC-130H Combat Talon II pilot, Major Jason Hanover, won the 2004 Col. James Jabara Award for airmanship for is actions in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

C-130s were also active in Libya. On February 24, 2011 an RAF C-130 evacuated 64 people and a dog. Two USAF C-130Js delivered humanitarian aid to evacuees on March 3. On March 5 USAF C-130Js and USMC KC-130s airlifted 500 Egyptian citizens from Djerba, Tunisia to Egypt. In March USAF, RAF, and RCAF C-130s supported operations against the Libyan government. RCAF CC-130s flew 132 sorties in support of these operations. USAF EC-130 Commando Solo carried out psychological operations against the Libyan government.

When the Islamic State took over large parts of Iraq and Syria U.S. and other countries sent forces to deal with them. These forces included C-130s. In August 2014 RAF C-130s made 5 airdrops. These airdrops included 9,000 5-liter water bottles, 2,640 reusable water purification containers with a total of 13,200 liters of water, 1,316 solar lanterns, and 528 shelter kits. The USAF C-130s airdropped supplies to Mount Sinjar and Amir in August 2014. Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130Js delivered protective vests and 1,760 body armor plates to Iraqi forces in August & September. On November 14 & 28, 2014 AC-130s and A-10s destroyed 398 oil tanker trucks.


[i] April 29: CENTCOM releases investigation into airstrike on Doctors Without Borders trauma center, http://www.centcom.mil/MEDIA/PRESS-RELEASES/Press-Release-View/Article/904574/april-29-centcom-releases-investigation-into-airstrike-on-doctors-without-borde/, last accessed 6/21/2018.

Non-Combat Operations

C-130s have served in many operations that didn’t involve combat. Besides serving as a cargo plane C-130s also have other civilian uses. These are a few examples of what C-130s have done over the years outside of combat operations.

C-130s can also be equipped to fight fires and other special missions. On June 14, 2002 four C-130s joined in the firefighting effort in Colorado. A Hawkins & Powers Aviation, Inc. C-130 crashed on June 17, 2002 while on a fire fighting mission. Ray Wass, Craig LaBare, & Michael Davis died in the crash. On July 13 & 14, 1001 C-130s of the North Carolina Air National Guard (ANG) dropped 200,000 gallons (760,000 liters) of fire retardant. C-130s flew 59 fire suppression sorties and dropped 145,000 gallons of water and fire retardant against forest fires in California in October 2003. Two C-130s helped fight forest fires in California in October 2007. A C-130 flew aerial spray missions in the wake of hurricane Ike in September 2008. A C-130 also flew an aerial spray mission in Louisiana on October 10. USAF C-130Js flew fire retardant missions in Israel in December 2010. C-130s fought Texas wildfires in April 2011. In June and July C-130s flew 242 sorties and dropped 609,960 gallons of retardant against fires in Arizona and New Mexico. A USAF C-130 involved in firefighting efforts crashed on July 2, 2012.[i] In 2012 C-130s dropped over 2 million gallons of fire retardant. In June 2013 C-130s fought the Black Forest fire in Southern California. A Wyoming ANG C-130 had to make an emergency landing while on a firefighting mission on August 17, 2014.

During October 2002 WC-130s flew Hurricane Hunter missions to track Hurricane Lili[ii]. On May 2, 2018 a WC-130 of the Puerto Rico ANG, on a training mission, crashed in Savannah, Georgia killing 5 on board[iii]. On August 10, 2014 a USAF Reserve WC-130J spotted a stricken 42’ sailboat in the eye of Hurricane Juno. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the 3 people on board.

On June 12, 2002 an AC-130 found two stranded jet skiers. A USMC KC-130 refueled two USAF Pave Hawk helicopters during the rescue of two men from a 30’ yacht in the North Atlantic on September 6, 2002. A C-130 participated in the rescue of Mike Swan who took ill while on a commercial fishing boat on December 8, 2002. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) C-130s searched for debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia in the Gulf of Mexico and off Florida’s coast. A USCG C-130 assisted in the rescue of Lt. Commander William Spears, USCG, who crashed in the Pacific Ocean in a Canard Pusher. A USCG C-130 was involved in the rescue of the crew of Bow Mariner on February 29, 2004. On March 1, 2004 a HC-130 assisted in the rescue of Ted Greene, a crashed PA-15 pilot. In May 2004 A USAF C-130 spotted a missing Micronesian sailing vessel. A USCG C-130 delivered food, water, and a radio to the six survivors. An HC-130 came to the aid of an injured Chinese fisherman 350 miles northeast of St. Maarten on July 23, 2004. A USCG C-130 found Patrick Hannan who was in the ocean for 15 hours. On August 26, 2005 an HC-130 flew a mission to rescue the pilot of a Kolb Fire Star II ultralight in Alaska. An HC-130 refueled HH-60s during a rescue operation where six migrants were saved in the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2008. An LC-130 evacuated a seriously injured member of an Australian Antarctic Division contingent on November 5. On December 10 an MC-130P refueled two HH-60G helicopters on a rescue mission where the life of a sailor on a cargo ship, off the coast of Ireland, was saved. The mariner was injured in a fall. On February 4, 2012 an MC-130P refueled two HH-60 helicopters that came to the aid of an ill sailor on the MCS Beijing. Two pararescuemen jumped from an HC-130 to reach a critically ill patient in a remote Alaskan village. Two pararescuemen with an inflatable boat jumped from an MC-130P to come to the aid of an injured fisherman on a Chinese boat. Another MC-130P transported the fisherman to the MCAS Miramar. In October a RAF C-130 transported a patient from Glasgow to London. On April 4, 2013 an Alaskan Air National Guard HC-130 participated in the rescue of Tom Douglas. In September an MC-130 participated in the rescue and recovery efforts of two missing U.S. Navy helicopter crew members in the Red Sea. An LC-130 med-evaced Buzz Aldrin from the South Pole on December 1, 2016. On March 15, 2018 An MC-130 Commando II and a USMC KC-130J refueled two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters as part of a rescue operation where a sailor aboard the MSC Flavia was suffering from a life-threatening illness.

In October 2002 four Royal Australian Air Force C-130s med-evaced wounded from the terrorist bombing in Indonesia. On November 17, 2002 a UN C-130 transported their inspectors to Iraq. A USAF C-130 transported 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg) of humanitarian supplies to earthquake victims in Algeria in June 2003. On December 28, 2003 a USAF C-130 delivered 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg) of relief supplies to Iran. The USAF used eight C-130s to fly relief supplies to earthquake victims in Iran. Two C-130s flew 36,000 pounds of supplies to aid the victims of the school attack in Brslan, Russia on September 6, 2004. On October 28, 2004 a C-130 flew 6,000 pounds of plastic sheeting to Niigata, Japan for earthquake relief. Ten C-130s flew tsunami relief missions in December 2004. A USAF C-130 delivered 50,000 sandbags during a flood in Nevada on January 11, 2005. In July 2005 two C-130s from RAF Leuchars transported police and supplies from Scotland to England in the aftermath of the 7/7/5 terrorist attacks. C-130s provided cyclone relief for Bangladesh in November 2007. A USAF C-130 flew a relief mission to Burma on May 12, 2008. On August 15, two USAF C-130s flew humanitarian aid to Georgia. MC-130H pilot Captain Daniel Santoro won the Cheney Award. Captain Santoro’s leadership and foresight led his squadron to successfully complete 29 missions, delivering 95 passengers and 211 tons of humanitarian aid to Georgia following the August 2008 Russian invasion. In August 2010 two C-130s flew missions for flood relief in Pakistan. In November 2013 an RAF C-130 flew a relief mission to the Philippines. On October 8, 2014 a C-130J provided medical supplies to west Africa to support the fight against the Ebola outbreak. In May 2015 two USMC KC-130Js flew Operation Sahayogi Haat missions. These missions provided humanitarian assistance to the victims of the April 25 earthquake in Nepal. HC-130H Combat King IIs participated in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in August 2017.

A USCG HC-130 assisted in the capture of 1.5 tons of cocaine, 6 suspects, and a “go-fast” vessel on November 15, 2003.


[i] Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, Maj. Ryan S. David, and SMSgt. Robert S. Cannon died in the crash.

[ii] Captain Robert Light was an aircraft commander for a mission on October 2, 2002 and MSgt Deano Harrison was a Dropsonde Systems Operator.

[iii] U.S. Department of Defense, DoD Pays Tribute to Members Killed in Georgia Crash, Afghanistan Attack, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1511771/dod-pays-tribute-to-members-killed-in-georgia-crash-afghanistan-attack/, last accessed, 6/23/2018.

© 2018 Robert Sacchi

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    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 weeks ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. It is amazing the usages they find for aircraft.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      3 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Robert,

      I enjoy reading about these incredible machines because they have contributed so much. Often, I watch shows about these planes and their abilities, but it is nice to read about how they have been used realistically. This plane definitely is a multipurpose powerhouse.

      Interesting and informative.

      Great read.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 weeks ago

      To give you an idea of big I did a tour of a C-5A where the tour guide explained there was an unusable space in the cargo hold. That useable space had the same capacity as a C-130's cargo hold. Big is a relative term.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      4 weeks ago from sunny Florida

      It was so BIG to little me. It was a bit overwhelming to someone who had had limited contact with aircraft of any kind. I guess I am still a bit in awe of them. Angels are headed your way early this Sunday morning ps

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 weeks ago

      You're welcome. I worked with a fellow who said it was the best plane in the Air Force. He had a bias since he had previously been in a C-130 unit.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      4 weeks ago from sunny Florida

      This is quite a machine. My ex-husband was in the Air Force and we were stationed in Japan (as you know from reading some of my ramblings). One weekend the families got to tour the C-130...it was quite something for sure. Definitely something I will always remember. You have shared way more than I ever knew...and I thank you for that. Once again Angels are headed your way ps

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. The fighters and bombers tend to get the lion's share of the attention. Other aircraft, such as the C-130, serve important roles that are in military operations. If someone were to write the definitive history of the C-130 it would be a very large book.

    • Gerry Glenn Jones profile image

      Gerry Glenn Jones 

      4 weeks ago from Somerville, Tennessee

      Robert, this is an outstanding article! I knew the C-130s were great aircraft, but not to the point you demonstrated in your article. I'm what some people call a "history nut," because I love almost everything concerning history, especially military history.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 weeks ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. The C-130 is a versatile aircraft. It has a long history and is adding to that history every day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 weeks ago from USA

      This is so rich with detailed information, only some of which I had previously heard. It was a fascinating read for the variety of uses of the plane and the dangerous missions encountered.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 weeks ago

      So far the hurricane season seems low key. I know, famous last words. The Air Force purchased the C-141 with the idea of having it replace the C-130. the C-141s retired some time back and the C-130 is still going strong. One can only wonder how long the C-130 will stay in production and service. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      You have packed so much information into this post regarding the C-130 airplane. I remember hearing about some of this through the years but certainly not everything you have detailed. It is certainly a useful aircraft used in many different capacities. Hopefully the hurricane hunters won't be too busy this year. Supposedly it is going to be an active hurricane season according to the forecasts.

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