One of aviation’s legendary airplanes, its service spanning the globe for decades since it made its maiden flight in 1954, the C-130 Hercules entered Navy and Marine Corps service respectively following demonstrations of its capabilities by the U.S. Air Force. After ski-equipped C-130Ds deployed to Antarctica to assist Navy operations in support of Operation Deep Freeze ‘60 and the Marine Corps evaluated two Air Force C-130As for in-flight refueling, the Hercules entered naval aviation service in 1960. Since that time some 13 versions of the airplane have served in a variety of roles supporting naval operations, one of the first being perhaps the most unique flights ever made in the long history of the Hercules.
In October-November 1963, with Lieutenant James H. Flatley, III, and Lieutenant Commander Walter W. Stovall at the controls and Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class Ed Brennan serving as flight engineer, a KC-130F made a series of touch-and-go landings and full stop landings and launches on board the carrier Forrestal (CVA 59) to evaluate the potential use of the Hercules as a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) fleet logistics support platform. Employment in this manner was deemed impractical, which meant that airfields on land would be the roost for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard “Herks.”
In Navy colors, the Hercules performed lengthy-service in support of Antarctic Development Squadron (VX/VXE) 6, where its ruggedness and reliability met the demands placed on it by some of the harshest operating conditions in the world. In February 1963, a squadron LC-130F logged the longest flight in the Antarctic up to that time, covering a distance of 3,470 miles in 10 hours and 40 minutes. Over the course of the ensuing 36 years until VXE-6 operations in the Antarctic ceased, LC-130s executed countless logistics support flights, including in the winter season, and executed critical medical evacuations of ill and injured personnel from remote base camps. Other versions of the airplane, designated DC-130A and EC-130G respectively, served as control aircraft for target drones and filled the TACAMO role, in which the airplane served as an airborne communications bridge between the National Command Authority and Navy ballistic missile forces in the event of a national emergency.
KC-130 versions of the airplane entered service with the Marine Corps to support its expeditionary operations by providing transport and aerial refueling, the airplane’s capabilities demonstrated in a dramatic way in October 1962, by tanking a squadron of A-4 Skyhawks on a round trip crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. That same year, KC-130s operated for the first time in the Republic of Vietnam supporting Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces in Operation Shufly. They subsequently served throughout America’s long involvement in the Vietnam War, some of the more famous flights made under fire supplying the besieged Marine garrison at Khe Sanh. The latest version of this Marine Corps workhorse, the KC-130J, carries a 41,000 lb. payload, can deliver more than 50,000 lb. of fuel at a 500 nautical mile radius, and performs surveillance and delivers close air support using the Harvest Hawk system.
The Coast Guard accepted its first example of the C-130 in 1966 to support the LORAN long range navigation system, the HC-130 eventually providing a platform packed with radar and sensory equipment for long-range search and rescue missions. The HC-130J is the latest version of the Hercules flown by the Coast Guard.
The museum displays two examples of the C-130 Hercules. A TC-130G (Bureau Number 151891) was delivered the Navy in 1965. Originally designated an EC-130G, it was one of four of this type aircraft to fly in the TACAMO role. Redesignated as a TC-130G, it spent its final years serving as “Fat Albert,” the logistics support aircraft for the Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. A KC-130F (Bureau Number 149798) is the airplane that conducted the flight operations on board Forrestal (CVA 59) in 1963. It later entered service with the Marine Corps and flew missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before its accessioning into the museum’s collection in 2006.
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
Dimensions: Length: 97 ft., 8 in.; Height 38 ft., 3 1/2 in.; Wingspan: 132 ft., 7 in.
Weights: Empty: 74,454 lb.; Gross: 135,000 lb.
Power Plant: Four 4,910 standard horsepower Allison T56-A-16 turboprops
Performance: Maximum Speed: 357 M.P.H.; Service Ceiling: 25,000 ft.; Range: 3,000 miles
Crew: Total of seven for refueling mission and five for transport mission
Load: 92 troops or 74 stretchers and maximum payload of 35,000 lb.