Military Wiki
LC-130 Hercules
An LC-130 rocket assisted takeoff from the Greenland Icecap
Role Ski-equipped military transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed
Lockheed Martin
First flight 1956
Status Active
Primary users United States Navy
United States Air Force
Developed from C-130 Hercules

A USAF LC-130 at Williams Field, Antarctica, 2006, with Mt. Erebus volcano in background

The Lockheed LC-130 is a ski-equipped United States Air Force variant of the C-130 Hercules used in the Arctic and Antarctic. Ten are currently in service with the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard.[1]

Design and development

The LC-130 started as a prototype model developed by modifying a C-130A with skis in 1956.[2] After testing in 1957, 12 additional C-130A models were modified with skis and hydraulics under the designation of C-130D.[3][4] In 1959 the first four factory equipped, ski-based Hercules were produced under the Navy designation of UV-1L. These C-130's are USAF C-130B models. Later in the program the designation was changed from UV-1L to C-130BL. This designation was again later changed to LC-130F when aircraft nomenclature was standardized for all services by the U. S. Defense Department in 1962. These four aircraft were bought by the Navy Department to support the Navy’s Antarctic expedition that was ongoing at the time.[5] The Navy also bought one LC-130R model in 1968. The National Science Foundation bought the second set of aircraft as replacement aircraft. The Polar Program Division of the Foundation had assumed management of the Antarctic Program in the early 1970s. These aircraft were designated LC-130R and were delivered in two lots: the first lot of three in 1974 and the remaining two in 1976. The primary mission of the LC-130 is supporting the scientific community in Antarctica by transporting cargo and personnel from the McMurdo Station to field stations and camps, including the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The aircraft are equipped with retractable skis that allow the aircraft to land on snow and ice as well as on conventional runways. The aircraft have provisions for using jet-assisted-takeoff (JATO) rockets, four on each side of the aircraft, that are used when the LC-130 operates from rough, unprepared snow surfaces or when shorter takeoff runs are needed. Originally the expended rocket bottles were jettisonable, but due to several accidents which occurred when a bottle detached from the aircraft during takeoff, the mounting provisions were changed so that the bottles could not be released in the air.

Operational history

Close up of LC-130 nose ski

The Navy Antarctic Development Squadron Six (First designated VX-6, then VXE-6 from 1969) originally operated the LC-130 aircraft. Initially, VXE-6 was home based at the Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island and later at the Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. Operation of the aircraft was transferred in the late 1990s to the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard when Navy support of the Antarctic program was terminated.

Currently all LC-130 aircraft are operated by the New York Air National Guard and are based at the Air National Guard's facility at Schenectady County Airport. There are two versions. Seven aircraft are LC-130H-2 (Three of these were Navy LC-130R from VXE-6 converted to LC-130H-2). Three are LC-130H-3.

Accidents and incidents

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Over time, a number of LC-130s have been lost due to accidents. Three LC-130 aircraft crashed in the early 1970s. An LC-130F taxied over a snow berm during a storm while maneuvering for take-off and was lost to fire in early 1971. Another LC-130F crashed in Victoria Land in late 1971 when the nose landing gear collapsed following a JATO malfunction during an open field takeoff. This aircraft was recovered in 1987. However, during the recovery effort an LC-130R crashed, killing two crewmen. In addition to the loss of the crewmen, an airborne scientific capability was lost as this LC-130R had been modified to do scientific work. The original LC-130R crashed while landing at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in 1973.

In the 1974/75 season during an open field takeoff on Dome C a JATO bottle on an LC-130F came loose and damaged the wing and one propeller thus causing an aborted takeoff. A fire in the wing caused further damage to the wing. A LC-130R was used to rescue the scientists and aircrew. Reluctant to use JATO, the nose gear of the LC-130R collapsed in the rough ice/snow during the takeoff, aborting the rescue attempt. A third LC-130 finally rescued all the scientists and aircrew. After evaluating the situation the Foundation and Navy made plans to recover the two downed aircraft during the next season. This involved replacement of the wing on the first aircraft and of the nose landing gear on the second aircraft. Preparations were made during the off-season to accomplish the repairs. After temperatures had risen sufficiently the recovery operations began the next November. A large number of flights was needed to transport all the material to the Dome C site. As an LC-130F took off for return to McMurdo a JATO bottle came loose, again damaging a propeller. Thus, Dome C became the home of three damaged LC-130s. As the damage to the last LC-130 was relatively minor compared to the others it was repaired first. Through extraordinary effort the repair team and supporting maintenance and aircrews all three aircraft were repaired and recovered from Dome C.

In 1993, an LC-130 crashed on the Lucy Glacier, Antarctica while retrieving a geology field party. The crash occurred in soft snow during an open-field takeoff when a propeller struck the snow sending the propeller into the fuselage. Fuel from the damaged engine ignited, and the plane spun sideways sliding for approximately 200 m down the glacier before coming to a stop. The plane was overhauled on site and flown back to McMurdo 21 days later.

See also

  • Video of rocket assisted takeoff from snow


Hawkins, Joe. "The Entire LC-130 Production List". Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

"Development of the C-130D". Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

External links

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