Tag Archives: Lockheed C-130 Hercules

How the AC-130 destroyed at least 20 vehicles per night during Vietnam War

During the early days of Vietnam Conflict, the US developed a special kind of attack aircraft to stop the flow of enemy troops and supplies: the gunship.

The Gunship aircraft, born from the conversion of cargo aircraft into powerful aerial weapons armed with big guns, were based on the concept of the circling attack.

In other words, the guns were mounted on the left side of the gunship so that the plane could fly a bank circle, achieving a good accuracy in strafing the target by using high velocity guns with a caliber of at least .30.

The first two types of gunships developed by the US were the twin-engine piston powered Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, but the final leap was made relying on the size, speed and heft of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules which became known in the gunships world as the AC-130 Spectre.

The first AC-130As were deployed in Vietnam in 1968. They were armed with two 20 mm and two 40 mm cannons and they flew their first missions teamed with F-4s, which had the task to attack and destroy with cluster bombs the enemy AAA (Anti Aircraft Artillery) that opened fire against the gunship.

During the first missions  the Spectre was also able to achieve an aerial victory when on May 8, 1969 an AC-130 shot down an enemy helicopter, as told by Wayne Mutza in his book Gunships The Story of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger and Spectre .

But the AC-130s were best and widely used from October 1969 to April 1970, the so called dry season, during which the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) trucks transported ammunition supplies by using the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Spectres crews, that had the task to hunt trucks, were able to destroy and damage 25 of them in one mission: among these there were also AAA vehicles and, some times, the gunships came back to the base badly damaged. In the 1969-1970 dry season the NVA moved about 68,000 tons of provisions on the Trail, 47,000 tons of which were destroyed by the 12 deployed AC-130s with their 20 mm high density rounds and 40 mm Bofors cannons.

The 1970-1971 was even busier for the gunships since American and South Vietnamese soldiers began moving into Laos: in fact, while the numbers of AC-130s increased from 12 to 18, the western part of the Trail became filled with an always increasing number of vehicles coming from east, where interdiction sorties had concentrated. Therefore, during this period a gunship could destroy more than 25 trucks per night and the 1970-1971 dry season ended with 58,500 tons of material destroyed.

By the end of the 1971, after the NVA increased the number of the armored vehicles and the caliber of guns along the Trail, the U.S. deployed the first example of AC-130E.

As explained in detail by Wayne Mutza in his book, the new Spectre model was armed with a new more potent gun, the M102 105 mm Howitzer which replaced one of the Bofors cannons on the left side of the gunship.

The first Howitzer was installed in a gunship after it was repaired from some battle damages. Since it could fire from a distance of 12,000 meters, the Howitzer highly increased Spectre stand-off capabilities: the result was a higher kill ratio against trucks, since a vehicle hit by a 105 round had only a 10% chance to be still operable.

During its first Vietnam deployment this single howitzer-mounted AC-130E destroyed 75 trucks and damaged 92 ones with the 105, and destroyed 27 vehicles and damaged 24 ones with 40 mm fire in 32 missions.

4th Special Operations Squadron

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Look Ma, No Hook: how a C-130 Hercules managed to land on an aircraft carrier

The story of  the C-130 Hercules that landed on USS Forrestal

Even if, nowadays, the C-2 Greyhound is the biggest transport aircraft designed specifically for carrier operations, on Oct. 30 1963, in an attempt to investigate the possibilities of using the C-130 for logistic support for U.S. fleet, a Hercules made an experimental landing on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59).

With the successful test, which took place in moderately rough seas in the North Atlantic 500 miles off the coast of Boston, the Hercules became the largest and heaviest aircraft to ever land on an aircraft carrier, a record that stands to this day.

The idea behind this unusual test was the so-called “Super Carrier Onboard Delivery” (Super COD) aircraft.

The COD concept was born to resupply aircraft carriers with urgently needed items. At the beginning of the 1960s, the airplane used for such task was the Grumman C-1 Trader, a twin piston-engine aircraft with a limited payload capacity and 300-mile range, the Chief of Naval Operations ordered to assess the possibility of operating a bigger transport airplane aboard the Norfolk-based USS Forrestal (CVA-59).

As explained by Joseph Earl Dabney in his book Herk: Hero of the Skies the C-130 was selected for its stability and reliability, combined with a long cruising range and the capability of carrying large payloads.

The crew for this historic test consisted of Lt. James H. Flatley III, pilot; Lt. Cmdr. W.W. Stovall, copilot; ADR-1 E.F. Brennan, flight engineer; and Lockheed engineering flight test pilot Ted H. Limmer, Jr.

When Lt. James H. Flatley III was told about his new assignment, he thought somebody was pulling his leg. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said.

According to Dabney a KC-130F refueler transport (BuNo 149798), on loan from the U.S. Marines and delivered on Oct. 8, 1963 was chosen for the historical trial.

Lockheed’s only modifications to the original plane was a smaller nose-landing gear orifice, an improved anti-skid braking system, and removal of the underwing refueling pods. “The big worry was whether we could meet the maximum sink rate of nine feet per second,” Flatley said. But, the Navy was amazed to find they were able to better this mark by a substantial margin.

The initial sea trials started on Oct. 30 1963 and were conducted into a 40-knot wind: however the crew successfully performed 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights of 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds.

At 85,000 pounds, the KC-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet, about twice the aircraft’s wing span as remarked by Dabney on his book.

The Navy discovered that even with a maximum payload, the plane used only 745 feet of flight deck for takeoff and 460 feet for landing. These achievements were confirmed by Lockheed’s Ted Limmer, who checked out fighter pilot Flatley in the C-130 and stayed on for some of the initial touch-and-go and full-stop landings. “The last landing I participated in, we touched down about 150 feet from the end, stopped in 270 feet more and launched from that position, using what was left of the deck. We still had a couple hundred feet left when we lifted off.”

The plane’s wingspan cleared the Forrestal’s flight deck “island” control tower by just under 15 feet as the plane roared down the deck on a specially painted line.

As explained by Dabney, Lockheed’s chief engineer, Art E. Flock was aboard the USS Forrestal to observe the testing. “The sea was pretty big that day. I was up on the captain’s bridge. I watched a man on the ship’s bow as that bow must have gone up and down 30 feet.”

The speed of the ship was increased 10 knots to reduce yaw motion and to reduce wind direction: in this way, when the plane landed, it had a 40 to 50 kts wind on the nose. “That airplane stopped right opposite the captain’s bridge,” recalled Flock. “There was cheering and laughing. There on the side of the fuselage, a big sign had been painted on that said, “LOOK MA, NO HOOK.”

The analysis of data collected by the U.S. Navy during the tests highlighted that the C-130 Hercules could carry 25,000 pounds of freight, fly for 2,500 miles and eventually land on a carrier. However, the procedure was considered a bit too risky for the C-130 and the Navy decided to use a smaller COD aircraft. For his effort, the Navy awarded Flatley the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the video below you can see the trials conducted by the Hercules on the USS Forrestal and described in the article.

 Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

Video shows C-130s flying at very low altitude through the valleys during Red Flag Alaska

If you thought low level flying was only for fighter planes, you were wrong. Watch how maneuverable a C-130 can be during a Red Flag sortie.

The following video shows a C-130H from the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota airbase Japan while conducting training operations during Red Flag Alaska 13-1. You can also spot another Hercules leading the formation through the valleys.

Even if low level videos usually feature fast jets, even cargo aircraft, often involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in troubled spots around the world, may have to fly (hence train) at low altitudes.

For instance, the low flying training of Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules pilots came in handy when they were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in Libya in 2011, few weeks before the Air War kicked off. The C-130s coming from Malta flew at low level once over the desert and in hostile air space, picked up the oil workers at a small remote airfield and returned to Luqa flying, at very low altitude until they reached the boundaries of the Libyan airspace.

H/T to Militaryphotos.net

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U.S. base in Japan launches all its planes. And these are the coolest images.

On Oct. 22, Yokota airbase in Japan, launched all its aircraft as part of a large formation mission. C-130 Hercules, UH-1 Hueys, and C-12 Hurons took off to show the installation‘s ability to provide support as the primary airlift hub for the Western Pacific theater.

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Ten C-130H Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron participated in a training sortie that tested Yokota’s ability to perform large-force employment and tactics.

C-130 night

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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[Photo] Inside a U.S. C-130H during a night air cargo drop over Afghanistan

An air cargo drop mission can be quite demanding, especially if conducted at night.

The thing becomes much more challenging when the flight takes place over the enemy territory where there is a residual risk of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) or small arms.

Night airdrop 2

On these missions, not only pilots but all the crew wear Night Vision Goggles, and use the side windows of the plane to spot any sign of hostile fire.

The images in this post show aircrew of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130H Hercules from Bagram airfield, involved in an airdrop mission in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2013.

night airdrop 3

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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