25 photos that show America's most versatile plane can do almost anything

Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane
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25 photos that show America's most versatile plane can do almost anything

The YC-130 prototype flew for the first time on August 23, 1954. Since that first flight, the C-130 has grown to support a variety of missions around the world.

(Photo via Wikipedia)

The aircraft can land on, and takeoff from, even the most uneven runways.

(Photo via US Air Force)

The US Air Force and Air National Guard have their own variant of the plane, the LC-130, that has been outfitted with skis to allow for Arctic and Antarctic support operations.

(Photo via US Air Force)

The latest model of the vanilla C-130 is the Lockheed Martin C-130J "Super" Hercules. Business Insider spotted several on the tarmac at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany.

(Photo by Jeremy Bender/Business Insider)

The Super Hercules comes outfitted with a host of cockpit and avionics improvements, such as a pilot's heads-up display. 

(Photo via Wikipedia)

The Super Hercules's cutting-edge cockpit only needs a crew of three to operate -- two pilots and a loadmaster to take care of the cargo. 

(Photo via US Air Force)

The Super Hercules also has improved propellers over the older models. The new propellers increase the plane's overall efficiency, while the aircraft's engines are 25 percent more powerful than the previous model.

(Photo via Adrian Pingstone/Wikipedia

The Super Hercules is a true beast of burden and can carry a maximum payload of 44,000 pounds.

(Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/US Air Force)

The C-130 can carry a vast range of cargo. Here, a soldier directs a P-19 fire engine toward a forward operating base in Afghanistan.

(Photo via US Air Force)

In this photo, the US Air Force carries humanitarian supplies for an airdrop over Amerli, Iraq on August 30, 2014.

(Photo via Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/USAF)

And of course, the aircraft also serves as a troop transport ...

(Photo via US Air Force)

... And paratroopers can use it as a staging airframe for jumps.

(Photo via US Air Force)

Critically, the C-130 can be used for the evacuation of up to 74 wounded soldiers or civilians.

(Photo via US Air Force)

Surgery can even be performed aboard the aircraft, if necessary.

(Photo via US Air Force)

The C-130 frame has been modified for a series of uses beyond just transport.

(Photo via US Air Force)

C130's come with some serious fire power and each aircraft can be modified for specific missions. The C-130J Ghostrider carries small diameter bombs, wing-mounted Hellfire missiles, and a M102 Howitzer cannon.

(Photo via US Air Force/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The US Forest Service calls upon the Air Force's C-130 to help fight wildfires. C-130s are outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems which drop 3,000 gallons of repellent in 5 seconds.

(Photo via Wikimedia)

The AC-130 Gunship, for example, can provide close-air support for troops on the ground.

(Photo via US Air Force)

The US Air Force and Coast Guard employ the HC-130 for search-and-rescue missions.

(Photo via US Air Force)

In combat search and rescue, the HC-130 is used for the transportation of survival equipment and aerial refueling of combat aircraft.

(Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

The US Forest Service uses C-130s loaned from the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve as emergency backup for dumping fire retardant or water.

(Photo via California National Guard)

Another variant of the C-130, the KC-130, is used for aerial refueling operations by the Marine Corps.

(Photo via Capt. Staci Reidinger/US Marine Corps)

The KC-130J can carry up to 47,903 pounds of fuel to give to other aircraft.

(Photo via US Air Force)

The EC-130 variant is specifically designed for electronic warfare. It can jam enemy signals, transmit commands to other planes, and transmit radio broadcasts to civilians in disaster relief or psychological warfare.

(Photo via Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper/USAF)

There is also the WC-130 Hurricane Hunter. The WC-130 is used for weather reconnaissance missions and can increase the accuracy of the National Hurricane Center's forecasts by 30 percent.

(Photo via Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett/USAF)


The endlessly flexible Lockheed C-130 Hercules is simply an astounding aircraft that can handle nearly any challenge thrown its way.

Designed against the backdrop of the Korean War, it has been over 60 years since the aircraft's first flight. Despite its age, the plane's airframe continues to be adapted and upgraded for novel uses across the full spectrum of the U.S. military.

From humanitarian rescue to paratrooper airdrops to gunship-type functions, the C-130 airframe is a marvel of ingenuity and versatility.

Watch more below:

Go Inside C-130 Loading Up for Fire Retardant Drop

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