The design of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules arose from the need to replace an ageing fleet of transport aircraft operated by the United States Air Force during the Korean War. The prototype YC-130 Hercules (53-3397) made its first flight on 23rd August, 1954, from the Lockheed plant at Burbank, California. The first C-130 Hercules was delivered to the USAF during December 1956.
The 50th anniversary of the introduction into service was celebrated in December 2006 and production still continues with the C-130J model – a remarkable record. To date, over 40 different models have been delivered to more than 50 nations.
The rugged airframe design has been adapted for many uses including gunship, airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research, air-to-air refuelling, weather reconnaissance and fire fighting. During its long career it has been involved in many of the world’s conflicts including the Falklands War, both Gulf Wars and the Balkans and Afghan conflicts.
The first C-130K (Hercules C1) first flew on 19th October, 1966 and the type entered service with 242 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Thorney Island in Hampshire on 1st August, 1967. Following training of the first crews, number 48 Squadron based at RAF Changi (Singapore) became the first operational Squadron in October 1967.
Within a year numbers 24, 30, 36, 47, and 48 Squadrons had all been equipped with Hercules C1 aircraft. Numbers 30 and 47 Squadrons were initially formed at RAF Fairford during June 1968 joining their sister Squadrons at RAF Lyneham during 1971. Number 70 Squadron re-equipped in 1971 and moved from Cyprus to RAF Lyneham during 1975.
Thirty of the original sixty six Hercules C1s were given a 15 feet fuselage stretch and designated the Hercules C3. Following the need for additional tanker aircraft, highlighted by the Falklands War, six Hercules C1s were converted to Hercules C1P. A single airframe (XV208) was modified for weather research for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and was designated the Hercules W2.
A new generation of Hercules entered service with the RAF during 2000 with the J model. Twenty five Hercules C1s were replaced with ten Hercules C5s (standard) and fifteen Hercules C4s (stretched) aircraft.
The RAF Hercules fleet is currently based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and comprises numbers 24, 30, 47 and 70 Squadrons.