Some of the Labours of Hercules
The primary task of the Hercules is (tactical) air transport of troops, vehicles and supplies, medical evacuation and paradropping. The C-130 can operate from many types of unpaved surfaces like loam, gravel and grass and, when fitted with skis, on ice and snow. If landing is impossible, goods can be delivered by dropping them via the rear cargo door. Special techniques have been developed to do this with the aid of parachutes.
Of the Lockheed Hercules many specialized versions exist. Of the C-130A only few special versions were actually built: the RC-130A and the C-130D. The RC-130A went into service with the USAF's Air Photographic and Charting Service and was intended for reconaissance duties. It included a dark room aboard. After conversion of a first C-130A, fifteen more new aircraft were ordered. The C-130D. The C-130D was fitted with skis for use in Arctic conditions. This variant had also provision for jet-assisted take-off (JATO), a number of built-in rocket-engines pushing the aircraft up. The GC-130A (later DC-130A) had four pylons for the air-launching of drones. In some C-130A aircraft guns and cannons were installed for ground attack. The aircraft were designated AC-130A.
The C-130B was also a platform for some special duties, including the JC-130B and WC-130B. The first-mentioned version was used for 'snatching' military space capsules in the air while they descended by parachute. The WC-130 was fitted for weather reconnaissance as 'Hurricane Hunters' or 'Typhoon Chasers'. Instruments for weather research were also built into a C-130B of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for an international research project on tropical weather. Some C-130B were also modified to RC-130B.
The C-130F was the version of the C-130B for the US Navy. The LC-130F ahd skis and was intended for Antarctic support missions. The KC-130F of the Marine Corps was used as aerial tanker. One of these aircraft landed and departed on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in October 1963. The US Coast Guard took 12 HC-130B aircraft for patrol duties and Lockheed delivered 5 aircraft as WC-130B for weather reconnaissance. Of all C-130B versions 230 were built.
Lockheed developed a Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) version as the NC-130B. On this aircraft a boundary layer control system was installed by blazing compressed air over the flaps to improve airflow. Lockheed started research on contract for the USAF, but the air force lost interest even before the aircraft flew. Lockheed continued the program some time on its own risk and the first flight took place on 8 February, 1960. The aircraft achieved landing rolls of only 450 ft (137 m) and a stalling speed of only 50 mph (80 km/h). The single NC-130B later went to NASA's Ames Research Center.
Of the C-130E appeared an electronic warfare version, the EC-130E. The C-130G was originally a strengthened C-130E for the support of
Polaris submarines, but later four of these aircraft were modified to become EC-130G TACAMO communications relay aircraft.
Of the next main production model of the Hercules, the C-130H, many more versions were developed. Many of their tasks were also performed by the new generation C-130J. They include gunships (AC-130H, Spectre, AC-130U Spooky II), electronic warfare (EC-130H Compass Call), maritime patrol (HC-130H, EC-130V), special operations (MC-130E/H Combat Talon), MC-130P Combat Shadow), aerial refueling (HC-130N/P, MC-130P), SAR (Search and Rescue - HC-130N/P, HC-130H, EC-130V) and more.