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Lockheed NC-130B Hercules

History of the NC-130B Hercules

The C-130 is without a doubt the ultimate workhorse of the United States Air Force (USAF) as well as over 60 other nations. Designed in the 1950s as the military’s first purpose-built, troop carrier, the Hercules has gone on to serve as everything from a gunship to a search-and-rescue aircraft, research vessel, aerial refueler and aerial firefighter. With more than 40 variants and continuous production for over 60 years, the Hercules is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind.

Lockheed NC-130B Hercules

Serial Number: 57-0526

Crew: Five

Engines: Four Allison T56-A-7 turboprops; 4,050 horsepower each

Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches

Length: 97 feet 9 inches

Height: 38 feet 3 inches

Weight: 2,892 pounds (empty); 135,000 pounds (gross); 175,000 pounds (maximum)

Speed: 328 mph (cruising); 384 mph (maximum)

Range: 2,090 miles

Service Ceiling: 41,300 feet

Armament: None

Cost: $22,900,000 (approximate)

The NC-130B Hercules at Hill Air Force Base

This NC-130B-1-LM, S/N 57-0526, was the second B Model Hercules manufactured by Lockheed Corporation of Marietta, Georgia (Lockheed Number 3502). It was delivered to the USAF as a JC-130B in February 1959 and assigned to the 6515th Organizational Maintenance Squadron for flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in November 1960.

While with the 6515th, the aircraft was used for jet-assisted take-off (JATO) testing, then it was turned over to the 6593rd Test Squadron’s Operating Location No. 1 at Edwards. The plane spent the next seven years supporting the top-secret Corona Program. The J status and prefix were removed from the aircraft in October 1967.

In May 1973, the aircraft was transferred to the 6593rd Test Squadron of the 6594th Test Group at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. There it was modified to perform mid-air retrieval of satellites and other objects as they floated back to earth beneath parachutes, under the Falling Star project and others. The aircraft was also used to recover high-altitude air samples in various locations around the world.

The plane was acquired by the 6514th Test Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in January 1987. While assigned with that unit, the plane was used as an electronic testbed and as a cargo transport. In January 1994, the aircraft was finally retired with over 11,000 flight hours and made its final move to Hill Aerospace Museum.

Is the C-130 still in use?

As the primary work horse of the United States (U.S.) Air Force, the C-130 is one of the most widely-used aircraft on the globe, with around 400 in active use with the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves.

What plane replaced the C-130?

The U.S. Air Force currently has no plans to replace the venerable Hercules, and with the recent deployment of the latest C-130 model, the J variant, the Hercules will continue to fly into the future.

Has a C-130 landed on an aircraft carrier?

In October 1963, the U.S. Navy decided to test out that very theory. With a wingspan of 132 feet and a landing width of just 252 feet on the carrier, the Hercules became the largest and heaviest aircraft to ever land and launch from a carrier.

What does C-130 mean in the military arena?

The C designation is used by the U.S. military to signify an aircraft whose primary role is that of cargo, airlift and logistics. In this case, the C-130 is one of the most versatile aircraft in the U.S. Air Force fleet, with the capability to fill a wide variety of roles and missions as needed.

What vehicles can a C-130 carry?

The Hercules was designed from the ground up to carry a variety of loads; from troops to supplies, to offensive and logistical vehicles, as well as refueling missions, electronic warfare, missiles, bombs and even as an offensive platform—the infamous AC-130U “Spooky” gunship.