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Inside The Archive: C-130 Hercules

Lockheed-C130-0008 from Australian Aviation's archive

As the longest continuously produced military aircraft at more than 60 years, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules deserves to be considered one of the greatest of all time. In total, 48 have supported ADF operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and Vietnam, and humanitarian disaster relief missions in Pakistan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific.

Australia obtained its initial batch in December 1958, becoming the first nation to operate the aircraft outside of the US Air Force. The four-engine turboprop, medium-lift aircraft increased transport capability, and reduced reliance on piston driven aircraft such as the C-47. As the years progressed, RAAF kept faith in the Hercules. Three C-130Es were delivered to the re-formed No 37 Squadron from 1967 before No 36 Squadron's original C-130As were replaced by C-130H aircraft in 1978.

The H was a significant improvement, most notably due to its short, dirt runway capability. Aside from being able to parachute soldiers into battle, it could airdrop equipment such as 4WD vehicles, inflatable boats and artillery pieces.

“A number of C-130H aircraft are fitted with self-protection systems to improve survivability in hostile areas,” according to the RAAF Museum, Point Cook. “The self-protection system consists of a radar warning receiver, along with chaff and flare dispensers. The radar identifies and locates the radar emissions of anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles and fighter aircraft. If an aircraft is engaged by one of these threats, chaff and flares can be ejected to defeat them.”

The J Super Hercules, though, is now the definitive incarnation, supporting 128 passengers, or eight pallets of cargo. It can work alongside other airlifters, too, such as the C-27J Spartan and C-17A Globemaster III. In September 1999, it helped evacuate 2,500 people from Dili, as conflict in East Timor raged.

The RAAF marked 800,000 flying hours by its fleet over five decades with a formation flight of three over Sydney Harbour in 2014. “Behind this milestone is the contribution of many talented men and women who have made these 800,000 flying hours possible,” said then Commander of Air Mobility Group Air Commodore, Warren McDonald. “Several generations of Australians have contributed to this achievement, regardless of which Hercules they worked on.”


  • Ross McIntyre


    Great to look back on the life of the FA18. I was there the day the first FA18’s landed at Williamtown.

  • David McKeand


    In the mid 60s I did a return trip to UK in a C-130 bringing back a RAF Blue Steel nuclear standoff rocket/bomb for testing at Woomera. The beast was never used and is now mounted in the outdoor display at Woomera. In 1966/67 I was part of the C-130E acceptance check team at Lockheed Marietta, Georgia. Brings back pleasant memories of the Hercules.

  • Jeremy Samatra


    awesome photos!

  • Ian Simmons


    Although I was only seven at the time (my father was an ATC) I do remember the C130A (the three bladed prop Hercules!) six gleaming Hercules parked lined up at the top end of the main runway in 1958 at Nadi Airport on the delivery from the US to Australia.

    Nadi Airport was going through considerable expansion at this time. A new terminal was being built and the main runway was being strengthened and lengthened in preparation of the QANTAS Boeing 707 delivery flights and the entering into service through Nadi. Once the runway was completed Boeing brought a Pan American Boeing 707-121 to Nadi to test the runway in hot weather trials taking off the “wrong way” towards the hills using 32 gallon barrels as passenger ballast!.

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