The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a military cargo plane, famed for its rugged quad-engine turboprop design and ability to use unpaved runways. Originally designed as a transport for infantry and heavy cargo, the C-130 has gone on to prove itself in a wide range of roles, including aerial assault, search and rescue, weather studies, mid-air refuelling and use as a seaborne patrol aircraft. The aircraft’s principal operators include the US Air Force (USAF), US Marine Corps and Britain’s Royal Air Force, but variants of the Hercules are currently serving in over 60 different countries. The C-130 has been in continuous production since 1954, and currently holds the record for the longest production run of a military plane or helicopter. Over 2,300 have been built, at a cost of $62 million per unit. It also holds the record for the heaviest aircraft to successfully land on an aircraft carrier.
Over 40 different variants of the C-130 have been produced, a testament to the versatility of its airframe. In its regular guise as a heavy lifter and troop transport, the C-130 can take a 45,000 pound (20,000 kg) payload inside its 40 foot cargo hold. In real terms, this could work out to 92 standard passengers, 64 airborne troops, six pallets, three Humvees or two M113 APCs. The aircraft is powered by four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, each producing 4,590 shp of power, and can cruise at 292 knots with a range of 2,050 nautical miles.
The Hercules was conceived in the early 1950s as a replacement for the piston-engined transport planes that were in common use at the time. The USAF made its requirement known to many prominent aircraft manufacturers of the day, and was submitted designs from Boeing, Douglas, Airlifts Inc., Chase and Lockheed. The Air Force were impressed with the prototype C-130 they were shown, especially its custom designed T56 turboprop engines, which produced a fair higher power-to-weight ratio than contemporary piston engines. Lockheed won the contract, and delivered the USAF’s first Hercules planes in 1956. The first non-American force to operate the aircraft was the Royal Australian Air Force, which began running the Hercules in 1958.
- Maximum speed: 320 knots (366 mph, 592 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,060 m)
- Cruise speed: 292 kn (336 mph, 540 km/h)
- Range: 2,050 nmi (2,360 mi, 3,800 km)
- Service ceiling: 33,000 ft (10,060 m) empty; 23,000 ft (7,077 m) with 42,000 pounds (19,090 kilograms) payload ()
- Rate of climb: 1,830 ft/min (9.3 m/s)
- Takeoff distance: 3,586 ft (1,093 m) at 155,000 lb (70,300 kg) max gross weight; 1,400 ft (427 m) at 80,000 lb (36,300 kg) gross weight