Now fast approaching its 60th anniversary, the extraordinary C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft is back in the news with two new programme developments revealed this week.
Announced on the same day were the maiden flight of the Iraqi Air Force's first (of six) C-130J Super Hercules and the delivery of the first Royal Air Force of Oman C-130J.
The C-130 Hercules remains a key element of the world's tactical airlift capability. The original C-130 Hercules first flew in 1954 and entered service three years later. To date, more than 2,300 examples have been built in a huge number of variants. These include the AC-130 gunship, EC-130 electronic warfare platform, KC-130 tanker and MC-130 special operations aircraft.
C-130J Super Hercules
The Iraqi Air Force's six C-130J Super Hercules will carry out numerous roles, including battlefield troop insertion and relief air support flights. Equipped with them, the Iraqi Air Force will be able to participate in joint operations with equivalent US and NATO assets. The first Iraqi Air Force C-130J is due for delivery in late 2012.
Meantime, Lockheed Martin has given the Royal Air Force of Oman its first C-130J, the lead member of a trio set to enter that air arm's service. These Omani C-130Js will be tasked with interior mobility operations that draw on the aircraft's renowned ability to takeoff from and land on short, unprepared airstrips. The Royal Air Force of Oman already has three older C-130H Hercules in service.
Iraqi and Omani Hercules
Besides these Iraqi and Omani Hercules, other C-130J operators include the USAF, the USMC, the RAF, the Indian Air Force and the Italian Air Force.
The C-130J Super Hercules emerged in the 1990s and can fly farther, faster and with more payload than its predecessors. The C-130J is powered by Rolls-Royce Allison AE2100 turboprops with six-bladed propellers, boasts digital avionics, is more reliable and is cheaper to operate than earlier types of Hercules.
26 C-130Js were delivered in 2011 - the second-highest number since series production got underway in 1998.