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The C-130 recently celebrated its 66th anniversary. On August 23, 1954, the first flight of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin took place. Starting in 2021, six C-130Js, the latest version of the tried and tested aircraft, will ensure tactical air transport as well as missions to protect German citizens (as part of the national crisis and risk management) and support for special forces operations of the Bundeswehr.



The C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft that was originally designed by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin, and over 2,500 units have been built since 1956. It's still being made. With the start of delivery of the latest version, the C-130J Super Hercules, since 1999, the C-130 is the longest-produced aircraft in history.

Since the first flight, over 40 different models and variants of the Hercules have been built and delivered for the more than 70 user countries worldwide. During their years of service, the Hercules family has participated in numerous military, civil and humanitarian relief operations around the globe.



The C-130 is able to use unprepared runways and was originally designed as a troop, medical and cargo transport aircraft. In the meantime, the versatile aircraft is used in a variety of other functions, including the Lockheed AC-130 Gunship for close air support with sideways-acting guns, search and rescue missions, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, air refueling, sea patrol and fire fighting from the air. Today the aircraft forms the backbone of tactical air transport for many armed forces around the world. The current most modern variant, the C-130J Super Hercules, is already used in over 18 countries. The J can carry up to 92 passengers (128 for the C-130J-30), 64 paratroopers (92 for the C-130J-30), 6 pallets of cargo (8 pallets for the C-130J-30), 74 couches for the wounded (97 Located at C-130J-30) or one to three vehicles depending on size and weight as internal load. The payload weight is around 19,000 kg.


C-130J in the Bundeswehr

In Germany, the project was also referred to as “small area”. This capability gap arises from the fact that the number of C-160 Transall is gradually being reduced. Although the Air Force now has extensive air transport capabilities with the A400M, it became apparent that there will be a capability gap, particularly in protected tactical air transport when using airports with little infrastructure or simple unpaved runways, as well as in the area of ​​air refueling of helicopters.

C-130 feiert Jubiläum

A cooperation with France in tactical air transport is currently being established to close this capability gap. On February 15, 2017, a so-called Declaration of Intent was signed between the Federal Ministry of Defense and its French counterpart to set up a joint air transport squadron with the aircraft type C-130J Hercules in Evreux, France. On October 18, 2017, the Deputy Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle, and his French counterpart, Admiral Philippe Coindreau, signed a basic document between Germany and France, which laid down further details of the future cooperation on this project.

On January 15, 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the first C-130J machine to France. In May 2018, the US State Department approved the sale of six C-130 tactical transport aircraft to the Air Force. From 2021, Germany and France want to jointly operate a total of ten aircraft of this type from the Évreux-Fauville Air Base in France. Joint cockpit crews as well as mixed ground crews are planned. The first German machine is scheduled to arrive in 2021. Both countries want to use the fleet together, France has ordered two C-130J-30 and two KC-130J (tanker variant), Germany three each. The range of the J is given as around 3,300 kilometers.


The Hercules in special forces

The C-130 and C-130J are also offered in versions for the support of special forces. Depending on the nation there is then its own designation, for example C-130J-SOF (Special Operation Forces). A variant of the aircraft specially developed for the needs of special forces was used for the first time in the Vietnam War.

One of the best-known successful special forces operations with the C-130 took place as part of Operation “Thunderbolt” or “Yonatan”, during which Israeli special forces freed a total of 102 hostages from the hands of German and Palestinian terrorists in July 1976. As part of this commando operation carried out on July 4, 1976, four machines of the Israeli Air Force (referred to there as "Karnaf") were used in the attack and the rescue of hostages at the airport of Entebbe, Uganda. The four machines - some of which flew almost empty to then pick up the hostages - transported 100 commando soldiers over 4,000 kilometers to strike in Entebbe at midnight. The commando action lasted only 90 minutes, during which 102 of the 106 hostages were rescued. In addition to three dead hostages at the airport, the commander of the Israeli special forces was also killed. Another five soldiers were injured.

At the Paris Air Show in June 2017, Lockheed Martin presented the tenth variant of the C-130J “Super Hercules” transport aircraft. The variant known as the C-130J-SOF is intended for export and was specifically geared to the needs of the special forces.

In its basic form, the C-130J-SOF is suitable for unarmed special operations, including covert infiltration / exfiltration / S & R, evacuation of civilians from crisis areas, humanitarian missions in regions with poor infrastructure, supply of special forces from the air, reconnaissance and surveillance, psychological warfare.

An upgrade kit is available to configure the aircraft as a gunship (30 mm cannon, Hellfire missiles). Another upgrade kit enables the C-130J-SOF to be used as a tanker for helicopters and fighter planes. According to Lockheed Martin, the base price will be around $ 75 million. With upgrade kits, the price can be 85 million or more. The purchase of these machines requires prior approval from the US government.

André Forkert