The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a medium-range transport aircraft, principally intended for use within a military theater of operations, but capable of self-deploying worldwide. It has been an extremely successful design, with constant evolution; the current C-130J production model externally appears much like the YC-130 prototype that first flew in 1954, but is radically different in capabilities.
More than 50 nations operate some of the dozens of variants, in both military and civilian use. Military applications are not limited to transports, but, in U.S. service, include:
- C-130J Hercules medium transport
- AC-130H/U Spectre/Spooky II precision night ground attack for special operations
- DC-130 drone/UAV controller
- EC-130 COMMANDO SOLO psychological warfare and broadcast jamming
- EC-130 COMPASS CALL communications intelligence and jamming
- HC-130H/N search & rescue with tanker capability, flown by the United States Coast Guard
- KC-130 tanker, flown by the United States Marine Corps
- LC-130H with skis for cold-weather operations
- MC-130E/H COMBAT TALON special operations transport and tanker
- MC-130W COMBAT SPEAR special operations transport and tanker
- RC-130 signals intelligence
- WC-130J weather reconnassance
Some are capable of being refueled, so have almost unlimited range, especially for self-deployment to a theater of operations. KC-130 and most MC-130 variants can refuel; some MC-130 can both refuel and be refueled.
Depending on the variant, Hercules aircraft carry a variety of electronic warfare defenses. These include AN/ALQ-131 radar jamming pods, a variety of electronic warfare expendables dispensers including the AN/ALE-37 and AN/ALE-47, and infrared countermeasures including the AN/AAR-57(V) and AN/ALQ-157.