C-130 HERCULES: FIFTY YEARS IN RAAF SERVICE

If the F-111 is the most significant aircraft the RAAF has ever operated, since World War II at least, the Hercules follows closely.  It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Hercules to national defence.

  • Dr Alan Stephens (1995)

2013 marked ten years of continuous operations by RAAF C-130s in the Middle East, a formidable milestone for any unit and capability in the ADF. This deployment, however, is only one chapter in the history of the C-130 in RAAF service. The RAAF has operated C130s for over 50 years, with four different variants from the C-130A to C-130J conducting missions across the full spectrum of operations from peacetime humanitarian assistance to conventional warfare. The Australian experience is far from unique, with over 70 countries currently operating at least one variant of the type.

So how does one explain the exceptional popularity, longevity and utility of  this ubiquitous platform? One approach would be to measure the platform's capability against the characteristics of air power -those key attributes of the air domain that are important to understand in order to realise the full potential of air power. Exploring how the design and operation of the C-130 embodies and exploits some of the more relevant characteristics of air power - speed, reach, payload, precision, flexibility and dependency - gives some insight into the success of this aircraft.