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The C-130J is the newest version of the C-130 Hercules and the only model still in production.
Design and development
Externally similar to the classic Hercules in general appearance, the J-model features considerably updated technology. These differences include new Rolls-Royce AE 2100 D3turboprop engines with Dowty R391compositescimitar propellers, digital avionics (including head-up displays (HUDs) for each pilot), and reduced crew requirements. These changes have improved performance over its C-130E/H predecessors, such as 40% greater range, 21% higher maximum speed, and 41% shorter takeoff distance. The J-model is available in a standard-length or stretched -30 variant.
Super Hercules cockpit
As a cargo and airlift aircraft, the C-130J's crew includes two pilots and one loadmaster (no navigator or flight engineer), while specialized USAF variants (e.g., AC-130J, EC-130J, MC-130J, HC-130J, WC-130J) may have larger crews, such as navigators/Combat Systems Officers or other specialized officer and enlisted air crew. The U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J uses a crew chief for expeditionary operations. The C-130J's cargo compartment is approximately 41 feet (12.5 m) long, 9 feet (2.74 m) high, and 10 feet (3.05 m) wide, and loading is from the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft can also be configured with the "enhanced cargo handling system". The system consists of a computerized loadmaster's station from which the user can remotely control the under-floor winch and also configure the flip-floor system to palletized roller or flat-floor cargo handling. Initially developed for the USAF, this system enables rapid role changes to be carried out and so extends the C-130J's time available to complete taskings.
Lockheed Martin received the launch order for the J-model from the RAF, which ordered 25 aircraft, with first deliveries beginning in 1999 as Hercules C4 (C-130J-30) and Hercules C5 (C-130J). The standard C-130J had a flyaway cost of US$62 million in 2008.
In mid-June 2008, the United States Air Force awarded a $470 million contract to Lockheed Martin for six modified KC-130J aircraft for use by the Air Force and Special Operations Command. The contract led to C-130J variants that will replace aging HC-130s and MC-130s. The HC-130J Combat King II personnel recovery aircraft completed developmental testing on 14 March 2011. The final test point was air-to-air refueling, and was the first ever boom refueling of a C-130 where the aircraft's refueling receiver was installed during aircraft production. This test procedure also applied to the MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft in production for Air Force Special Operations Command.
A KC-130J showing the AN/AAQ-30 Targeting Sight and AGM-114 Hellfires on the left wing in Afghanistan, 2011
From the first flight on 5 April 1996 to 30 April 2013, 290 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft operated by 13 nations surpassed 1 million flight hours.
In January 2013, it was reported that some of Canada's CC-130J transports had counterfeit Chinese microchips in their cockpit displays that were made by an American Lockheed contractor L3 Communications. These parts are more likely to fail and result in failures such as blank instrument screens during flight. A 14-month investigation by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that counterfeit parts in the Hercules and other American-made military equipment are prone to failure with potentially "catastrophic consequences." The U.S. congressional investigation reported the fake Hercules microchips were originally made by the Korean electronics giant Samsung in the 1990s, and more than a decade later, had been recycled, refurbished and remarked to appear genuine by a different supplier from China. Samsung later stated that "it is not possible to project the reliability" of the altered parts. The U.S. investigation reported that the problems on the Hercules first came to light in 2010 when the instrument panel failed on a USAF aircraft during active duty.
On 20 August 2013, the Indian Air Force performed the highest landing of a C-130J at the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh at the height of 16,614 ft (5,064 m).
The Canadian Forces signed a US$1.4 billion contract with Lockheed Martin for seventeen new C-130J-30s on 16 January 2008, as part of the procurement process to replace the existing C-130E and H models. The C-130J is officially designated as the CC-130J Hercules in Canadian service. The first C-130J was delivered to CFB Trenton on 4 June 2010. The final C-130J was delivered on 11 May 2012.
The Indian Air Force purchased six C-130J-30s in early 2008 at a cost of up to US$1.059 billion for its special operations forces in a package deal with the US government under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. India has options to buy six more aircraft. The Indian government decided not to sign the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which resulted in the exclusion of high precision GPS and other sensitive equipment. However the IAF added similar equipment produced indigenously to the aircraft after delivery. In October 2011, India announced its intent to exercise the option for the six additional aircraft, following the C-130J's favorable performance in the 2011 Sikkim earthquake relief operations. In July 2012, the U.S. accepted India's request for the six more C-130Js through the FMS program. On 20 December 2013, India's CCS approved the order for 6 more aircraft.
Qatar ordered four C-130Js in October 2008, along with spare parts and training for the Qatar Emiri Air Force. The contract is worth a total of US$393.6 million and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2011.
The United Arab Emirates Air Force announced an order for twelve C-130J transports at the 2009 IDEX, with an announced value of US$1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates requested 12 C-130Js through a Direct Commercial Sale in December 2009, with logistics support, training and related systems to be provided through a Foreign Military Sales program. A contract with Lockheed Martin has not been signed.
The Israeli Air Force is seeking to purchase nine C-130J-30s. In April 2010 Israel ordered one C-130J-30 with delivery in 2013, and was in contract talks for two more aircraft in June 2010.[N 1] An option for a second C-130J-30 was exercised on 8 April 2011, along with planning and advance long lead procurement of aircraft components to support the third C-130J Israeli aircraft. The first Israeli C-130J was delivered on 26 June 2013 and was modified with Israeli-unique systems in the United States prior to its arrival in Israel on 9 April 2014. Israel ordered a fourth C-130J-30 on 25 July 2013. The C-130J's local name is "Shimshon".
The Kuwait Air Force signed a contract for three KC-130J air refueling tankers in May 2010, with deliveries to begin in late 2013. The KC-130Js will refuel its F-18s and augment its fleet of three militarized L-100s.
Oman increased its C-130J order in August 2010 by adding two C-130Js to the single C-130J-30 ordered in 2009. Deliveries are to be completed by early 2014. The Royal Saudi Air Force has purchased[when?] two KC-130Js to be delivered in 2016.
In 2015, the French Air Force ordered 4 Super Hercules to supplement existing capabilities due to the ongoing problems and delays of the ordered Airbus A400M, through FMS the French got 2 C-130J in 2017/2018 and 2 KC-130J in 2018/2019 (helicopter refuelling capability), especially supporting French overseas operations in Africa.
In January 2017, German defence minister announced the intention to purchase 3 C-130J and 3 KC-130J Hercules to acquire tactical airlift capabilities due to the delayed deliveries of the Airbus A400M. Together with the C-130J of the French Air Force this will form a joint air transport squadron.
In September 2018, Indonesia's state-owned news agency Antara reported that minister of defence Ryamizard Ryacudu said Indonesia is looking to acquire 5 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
On 11 June 2019, New Zealand's Minister of Defence Ron Mark identified the C-130J-30 as the preferred replacement for the Royal New Zealand Air Force's five remaining C-130Hs that are planned to be in service until 2023. In November 2019 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale of five C-130Js, 24 engines and related equipment for an estimated cost of US$1.4 billion. The sale was confirmed in June 2020, with the planes expected to be delivered between 2024 and 2025.
C-130Js have been involved in the following notable accidents.
On 12 February 2007, RAF Hercules C.4 C-130J-30 ZH876, c/n 5460, seriously damaged during landing, no casualties.
On 15 March 2012, Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J-30, 10-5630, c/n 5630, on a flight from Evenes, Norway to Kiruna, Sweden, impacted the side of Kebnekaise mountain, and disintegrated. All five aboard were killed. The aircraft was to collect soldiers and fly back to the Norwegian base for the NATO exercise "Cold Response".
On 28 March 2014, Indian Air Force C-130J-30 KC-3803 crashed near Gwalior, India, killing all 5 personnel aboard. The aircraft was conducting low level penetration training by flying at around 300 ft when it ran into wake turbulence from another aircraft in the formation, which caused it to crash.
On 2 October 2015, a U.S. Air Force C-130J assigned to the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, part of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing crashed shortly after takeoff from Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan killing all 11 onboard and 3 on the ground.