Seven Unexpected Missions of the C-130 Hercules

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From harsh environments to combat theaters, the C-130 Hercules has proven it’s the world’s most versatile airlifter. If you thought you knew everything the Herc could do, check out these seven unexpected missions that prove the C-130 is always ready for any mission at hand:

1) Ski Bird: The C-130 is always in its element, so it should come as no surprise that the Herc can travel as far south as Antarctica and as far north as the Greenland ice cap. Equipped with Teflon-coated skis that weigh about a ton apiece, the LC-130 effortlessly lands on the cold terrain, making the Hercules the largest ski aircraft in the world. Learn more.

national guard ski bird

(Credit: Charles Kaminski, National Science Foundation)

2) Firefighter: The Herc gives Smokey Bear a hand by taking on aerial firefighting with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS). The roll-on/roll-off MAFFS system drops 3,000 gallons of retardant or water in about five seconds. The C-130 crews flying the MAFFS missions work with firefighters on the ground and other fixed wing aircraft to help contain or directly extinguish a blaze. Learn more.

c-130 maffs feature

(Credit: Lockheed Martin)

3) Pest Controller: Beyond fighting fires, the C-130 also supports aerial spraying missions to control disease-carrying insects, pest insects and undesirable vegetation, and to disperse oil spills in large bodies of water. Learn more.

c-130 aerial spraying

(Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

4) Radio Broadcaster: The EC-130 Commando Solo is designed to conduct information operations, acting as a radio station in the sky. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the EC-130J flew over the affected region broadcasting public service announcements pointing residents to the closest food and aid stations. Learn more.


(Credit: Lockheed Martin)

5) Scientist: With the ability to access remote locations around the world and different parts of the atmosphere while hauling a variety of scientific instruments, the Herc is an ideal aerial research platform. From thermal testing to exploring the icing property of clouds, C-130 crews study it all. Learn more.

c130 scientific research

(Credit: NSF/NCAR)

6) Fishing Patrolman: The U.K.’s Royal Air Force Hercules crews play a vital role in maritime patrol to prevent illegal fishing. With up to several hundred vessels in the area surrounding the Falkland Islands at any one time, the C-130’s radar is critical to detecting and identifying fishing vessels that do not have proper licenses. Learn more.

raf uk c130

(Credit: RAF Crown Copyright)

7) Hurricane Hunter: The WC-130 is the world’s most powerful airborne weather station, using the strength and toughness of the C-130 to fly directly through the eye of a hurricane. Flown by the Air Force Reserve, the data collected by the Hurricane Hunters increases the data of the National Hurricane Center forecast by 30 percent. Learn more.

wc-130j hurricane hunter

(Credit: Lockheed Martin)


Super-Sized Air Mobility Bonus Mission:

Satellite Carrier: The C-5M Super Galaxy is the U.S. Air Force’s largest strategic airlifter. With the ability to haul twice as much cargo as any other airlifter, the C-5M was the only cargo plane that could deliver the Advanced Extremely High Frequency , or AEHF, communications satellite to the Air Force at Cape Canaveral. Learn more.

c5 satellite transport

(Credit: Lockheed Martin)

September 16, 2013

  • Throughout aviation history, no aircraft, either developed or under development, can match the flexibility of the C-130 Hercules.
  • The C-130 has evolved to fulfill a wide variety of missions, and has proven and highly operational in harsh environments and combat theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Among its missions, the C-130 counts capabilities as diverse as aerial firefighting, information operations, maritime patrol, aerial spraying and tracking hurricanes.