Have you all seen “Furious 7” yet? Much like the movie “Top Gun,” the star of this new flick is an airplane. The producers hired a Lockheed-Martin C-130 Hercules to fly up to an altitude of 12,000 feet with five cars aboard, only to drop the cargo bay ramp and boot them out one by one in a freefall stunt so spectacular many thought it was computer-generated. (If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s at the bottom of the post.)
The C-130 celebrated its 60th birthday on April 7, and has the distinction of being the longest-produced military aircraft type in history. It’s been around longer than both the venerable Northrop-Grumman F-5 and the ancient Boeing KC-135s that comprise the backbone of the Air Force’s air refueling capability. Even so, the Mighty Herc has never been the hottest topic of aviation-related discussion.
Seriously, when was the last time you aviation aficionados all sat around the table extolling the virtues of the mighty Hercules, as opposed to the sexy lines and soul-numbing roar of the F-22 Raptor?
Exactly my point!
The aircraft is big, robust, and incredibly versatile. Throughout its history, the Herc performs missions such as Close Air Support (AC-130), air-to-air refueling (KC-130), SIGINT (EC-130), Hurricane Hunting (WC-130), airlift for Special Operations Forces (MC-130), Search and Rescue (HC-130J-seen below), and many more.
The fact that “Furious 7” producers chose a plane that was designed in the 1950s tells you a little something about the success of the Hercules. Here are five of the many amazing milestones in the Herc’s career:
1) Since the initial flight of the first production C-130 in 1955, nearly three thousand of these aircraft have been built. Over sixty nations fly the Hercules, the most prolific model of which is the C-130H. Over 1,200 H-models rolled off the production line until 1996, when the C-130J Super Hercules came online.
2) The C-130 landed in Antarctica for the first time in 1959, using conventional landing gear. A follow-on version of the Herc, the LC-130, has ski-equipped landing gear and JATO bottles to help with takeoffs from the snow and ice.
3) The biggest conventional weapon in the Pentagon’s arsenal was designed specifically to be dropped by the special operations variant of the Hercules, the MC-130. Known as MOAB, for Massive Ordnance Air Burst (or “mother of all bombs”), this 22,600-pound bomb is over thirty feet long and has a diameter of more than three feet.
4) The Hercules holds the record for the largest and heaviest aircraft to ever land aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. During October and November 1963, a C-130 conducted 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested, full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs from the USS Forrestal.
5) The AC-130U also holds the record for the longest sustained flight by a Hercules. In October of 1997, two AC-130s flew 36 hours nonstop from Air Force Special Operations Command’s headquaters at Hurlburt Field, Florida to South Korea. The pair of gunships were refueled seven times by KC-135s and took on over 400,000 pounds of fuel.
That’s how amazing this plane is.