A Salute To Herc Tankers
The C-130 Hercules: One aircraft supporting many missions. None of these missions is more visible than as an aerial refueling (AR) tanker.
The KC-130 — and its “cousins” the HC-130 and MC-130 — are the world standard in tactical AR tankers. For nearly six decades, these tankers have fueled the fight, transferring critical fuel to fighters, helicopters and now, tiltrotors. In addition, these aerial gas stations have been used for rapid ground refueling of expeditionary forces. And, of course, these aircraft can still transport vitally needed supplies.
The KC-130J Super Hercules tanker is the latest in the long line of combat proven C-130 Hercules tankers. It is a proven design used worldwide that takes full advantage of technological and performance improvements in the C-130J Super Hercules.
Each Tuesday in June, we’re saluting the Hercules tankers with #TankerTuesdays. We’re exploring everything that’s Herculean in size and scope about a KC-130J!
It’s been said that it’s really not about what a KC-130J can do; it’s what a KC-130J is doing. Check out this video to see exactly what we mean. Welcome to #TankerTuesdays!
Welcome Back to #TankerTuesday!
The KC-130J aerial refueling tanker is called upon to refuel everything from helicopters to 5th Generation fighter jets. It can even refuel vehicles on the ground. So, how exactly does a KC-130J deliver fuel anywhere at any time?
In the air: When a KC-130J refuels fixed wing, tiltrotor or rotary wing aircraft in flight, it uses a probe and drogue refueling technique. The KC-130J has pods (manufactured by Sargent Fletcher, which is a part of Cobham Missions Systems) that extend a retractable hose behind the tanker, with a basket-like structure at the end called a drogue. The drogue guides the hose and stabilizes it as the receiving aircraft’s with a probe approaches. Once contact is made and the drogue is pushed forward about four feet, the tanker provides fuel to the receiving aircraft. Up to 300 gallons of fuel per minute can be transferred to up to two aircraft at the same time. The KC-130J has a 57,500 lbs./8,455 gallon fuel offload capacity using wing fuel and external tanks. This capability is increased with the addition of a removable 24,392 lbs./3,600 gallon fuselage tank.
Some of the more recognizable aircraft that a KC-130J can refuel include the F-35B variant flown by the U.S. Marine Corps, F-35C variant flown by the Navy and the Marine Corps, V-22 Osprey, F/A-18 Hornet and multiple types of helicopters.
On the ground: On the ground, the KC-130J can refuel helicopters, land vehicles and fuels caches at 4,080 lbs./600 gallons per minute. While on the ground, the KC-130J’s unique prop-feathering capability (“Hotel” mode) can be engaged with the engines still running. Hotel mode reduces prop blast on the ground by 90 percent, offering hospitable conditions during ground and other operations. Up to 600 gallons can be offloaded per vehicle per minute.
Some of the land vehicles that can be refueled by a KC-130J include: M1 tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, trucks and HMMWVs (Humvees).
Cut From the Same Proven Cloth
Not all Super Hercules tankers are known by the designation, “KC-130J.” Meet the MC-130J and the HC-130J, two Super Hercs which support the U.S. Air Force’s tanking missions. Both of these aircraft are built using the KC-130 tanker platform.
The MC-130J Commando II multimission combat transport/Special Operations tanked, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), is deployed for missions requiring clandestine single- or multi-ship low-level aerial refueling of Special Operation Force helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft and/or infiltration, resupply and exfiltration by airdrop, or landing on remote airfields.
The HC-130J Combat King II is the U.S. Air Force's only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform and is flown by Air Combat Command (ACC) aircrews. This C-130J variation specializes in tactical profiles and avoiding detection and recovery operations in austere environments. Air Education and Training Command also operates HC-130Js, training crews for operational missions. Like the MC-130J, it is used to for refueling purposes as well. (Note: the 2,500th C-130 delivered is an HC-130J assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.)
The HC/MC-130J’s remind us of one very important notion: every Super Hercules truly is one aircraft that has many capabilities!
Until We Meet Again
The C-130 Hercules has long been known as the world’s workhorse … and rightfully so. To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered C-130s (many of which KC-130 tankers or their fuel-carrying cousins) to 63 nations around the world, with 68 nations operating Hercs today.
The Super Hercules carries on with this tradition and has delivered C-130Js to 16 countries. More than 55 of the 350+ C-130Js delivered to date are KC-130Js.
While the U.S. operates the largest fleet of Super Hercules tankers, the KC-130J is flown by multiple international operators, solidifying its global influence and reputation
The U.S. Marine Corps is the largest operator of KC-130Js, using the aircraft for a variety of aerial refueling and reconnaissance missions. With more than 20,000 flight hours logged across six continents, the KC-130Js assigned to the Marines have earned a reputation as tactical workhorses that will complete any mission, anytime, anywhere. Other KC-130J operators include the U.S. Air Force (HC/MC-130Js both support tanking missions), Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), Kuwait Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). The RSAF is the newest international KC-130J operator and received two KC-130Js in 2016. The RSAF operates legacy KC-130s as well and has one of the largest Hercules fleets in the world.