Forget the Stealth F-35 or F-22: This Might Be the Air Force's Most Important Plane

C-130
July 21, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: C-130C-130 HerculesF-35Air ForceMilitaryDefense

Forget the Stealth F-35 or F-22: This Might Be the Air Force's Most Important Plane

The KC-130J is the latest variant of an aircraft that first entered service in the 1960s. It shares only 55% of the same airframe as preceding models. The C-130J is in service with 26 operators in 22 nations, and the multi-mission tactical airlifter has logged a combined 3 million flight hours.

 

Summary and Key Points: Lockheed Martin achieved significant milestones with its aircraft, producing the 1,000th F-35 Lightning II and delivering the 2,700th C-130 Hercules, a KC-130J Super Hercules tanker, to the U.S. Marine Corps.

F-35

 

-The F-35's production milestone highlights its importance in modern military aviation, while the C-130J's versatility and global reach underscore its enduring value.

-These achievements reflect Lockheed Martin's continued impact on military aviation.

1,000th F-35 and 2,700th C-130J: Lockheed Martin's Aviation Achievements

Earlier this year, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II reached a significant milestone with the production of its 1,000th aircraft.

A total of 3,500 F-35s have been ordered, but reaching the 1,000 mark of produced fighters is no small feat. Few modern combat aircraft have reached a four-figure production run. The others are older, fourth-generation platforms; fighters such as the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-29, and Sukhoi Su-27. 

F-15

By comparison, only 21 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirits were produced, while just 104 Rockwell B-1 Lancers rolled off the assembly line. The days of thousands of aircraft being produced are largely a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, another aircraft reached a notable milestone of its own. Lockheed Martin announced that it recently delivered the 2,700th C-130 Hercules multi-mission tactical airlifter.

Up in the Sky—It’s a Plane, It’s the Super Hercules

The aerospace giant noted that the aircraft that reached the landmark was a KC-130J Super Hercules tanker. It will be operated by the U.S. Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 at Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

“Defined by its proven performance and unmatched versatility, operators in 70 nations around the world fly C-130 airlifters to support any mission anywhere, any time,” Lockheed Martin stated in a press release. “The current C-130 production model is the C-130J Super Hercules, which includes the KC-130J tactical tanker. To date, the C-130J is certified to support 18 different mission requirements.”

As further noted by the defense contractor, the KC-130J has essentially set the “global standard for tactical tankers,” enabling aerial refueling of aircraft such as the Marine Corps’ Lockheed Martin F-35B/C Lightning II fighter aircraft. It is a flying fuel station that can support numerous fixed-wing aircraft, but also rotary aircraft: The KC-130J’s ability to fly at slow speeds and low altitudes means it can refuel Marine Corps helicopters.

The KC-130J is the latest variant of an aircraft that first entered service in the 1960s. It shares only 55% of the same airframe as preceding models. The C-130J is in service with 26 operators in 22 nations, and the multi-mission tactical airlifter has logged a combined 3 million flight hours.

Key KC-130J Specs:

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 164,000 lbs

Maximum Fuel: 61,364 lbs. (with external tanks)

Max Payload: 47,903 lbs. (at Maximum Wing Relieving Fuel)

Cargo Volume: 4,551 cu ft.

Crew For Refueling Options: Two Pilots, One Advanced Crew Stations (ACS) Operator, Two Loadmasters

Max Range: 4,275 n.mi (with external tanks)

“The Lockheed Martin team is honored to deliver this milestone Super Hercules to the U.S. Marine Corps, where it will be part of the largest KC-130J fleet in the world and provide true force amplification across the globe,” said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Air Mobility & Maritime Missions line of business. “Not only does this Hercules represent the 2,700th C-130 delivered, but it also reflects the inherent mission and performance adaptability that fuels the C-130’s ongoing relevance.”

C-130

About the Author: Peter Suciu 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

All images are Creative Commons. 

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