Versatility in Air Mobility
There is no aircraft in aviation history — either developed or under development — that can match the flexibility and versatility of the C-130 Hercules. Since the Hercules first took to the skies almost 60 years ago, it’s earned a reputation as a workhorse ready for any mission, anytime, anywhere.
The story of the iconic C-130 is legendary. However, the Hercules has always been focused on the future, not the past. Our customers continue to give us meaningful work that challenges us to create stronger, longer and more affordable air mobility solutions. By partnering with them from the very beginning, Lockheed Martin has committed to continuously upgrading and improving the Hercules with near-real-time evolutions to always keep customers one step ahead of challenges on the horizon.
The latest C-130 model, the C-130J Super Hercules, is a perfect example of how partnership can drive innovation. By working closely with our customers and suppliers, the C-130 team was able to provide a quantum leap in capability. With improvements to virtually every system, component and structural part of the aircraft, the J model is more durable, easier to maintain and less expensive to operate than legacy C-130 models.
The C-130J model also advances aeronautics with a new internal digitized design that revolutionizes the way the aircraft performs the mission. While the C-130 was originally designed for military cargo missions, the C-130 customer base has continued to find new ways to use the Hercules.
One example is the highly specialized aerial firefighting mission, which was first introduced to the Hercules family in 1973 with the prototype Modular Airborne Firefighting System, or MAFFS. Congress established the MAFFS program under the U.S. Forest Service after a series of devastating wildfires in the early 1970s overwhelmed the number of commercial firefighting aircraft resources available to fight them. Since 1973, MAFFS units have been activated in 29 fire seasons and have fought wildfires in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, Africa, and Indonesia.
The legacy MAFFS was made up of a series of five 500-gallon aluminum tanks that are specially made to roll onto a C-130 Hercules aboard three connected, standard-sized military cargo pallets. It used two articulated nozzles positioned over the C-130’s open cargo ramp to dispense 30,000 pounds of water or fire retardant in three short dumps or all at once, as the Hercules flew over a fire.
The current MAFFS system, or MAFFS II, was first introduced in 2009 and offers a more controlled release of fire retardant. MAFFS II allows crews to discharge retardant at set rates that meet current drop standards – light coverage for grass fires or heavier coverage for timber fires. While MAFFS II uses a similar three-pallet roll-on/roll-off system as the original MAFFS, the new system has evolved into a single, 3,000-gallon tank platform that dispenses retardant only as necessary, allowing for multiple passes over a fire.
In addition to more targeted and controlled discharge of retardant, the MAFFS II system provides a quick and timely solution, requiring only four hours to install and configure a MAFFS unit on the C-130. Once in flight, the MAFFS II can release all 3,000 gallons, or 28,000 pounds, of retardant in just five seconds, covering an area up to a quarter of a mile long and 100 feet wide. And, after the tank is completely empty, it takes less than 12 minutes to refill the tank on the ground before taking off for a second round of support.
Once the firefighting mission is complete, crews can quickly remove the MAFFS II system from the C-130 to return the Hercules to its typical cargo and personnel transport missions. The roll-on/roll-off type system enables the Hercules to remain flexible and perform multiple missions, unlike other airlift aircraft that may be restricted to dedicated mission configurations.
Today, the C-130J fills a wide variety of missions, including military, humanitarian relief, medevac and special operations missions. The flexibility of the J model’s new digitally enhanced cargo handling system even allows crews to reconfigure their Super Hercules for different missions in less time with its roll on/roll off capabilities. Crews can now switch the cargo compartment from one mission to another in just a few hours--instead of half a day—to get to the mission at hand faster.
The international freight market is also beginning to see the value of the C-130J capabilities, driving the creation of the new LM-100J civil-certified commercial variant. Like the Hercules, LM-100J builds on the success of a legacy airlifter – the L-100. Also similar to the C-130J, the LM-100J offers the versatility of roll-on/roll-off capabilities with the ability to operate from short, unprepared airfields without ground support equipment. The two aircraft also perform similar missions, including aerial firefighting as well as humanitarian relief, aerial surveillance and oversized cargo transportation.
Designed and developed with mission flexibility in mind, the C-130 Hercules is always ready for its next mission and for whatever the future holds.
February 24, 2014
- While the C-130 was originally designed for military cargo missions, the C-130 customer base has continued to find new ways to use the Hercules.
- The Modular Airborne Firefighting System, or MAFFS II, provides targeted control of fire retardant while being a quick and timely solution, requiring only four hours to install and configure a MAFFS unit on the C-130.
- The international freight market is also beginning to see the value of the C-130J capabilities, driving the creation of the new LM-100J civil-certified commercial variant.
Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) units fit inside C-130 airplanes without requiring structural modification and provide emergency capability to supplement existing commercial tanker support on wildland fires.
LM-100J, the civil-certified commercial variant of the C-130J Hercules.