A KC-130J from VMGR-252 flies over the Mediterranean Sea, 15 June 2014
Role Tanker (aircraft) / Transport, Overwatch / Ground support ((Harvest HAWK variant)).
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed
Lockheed Martin
Introduction KC-130F: 1962
KC-130R: 1976
KC-130T: 1983
KC-130J: April 2004
Retired KC-130F (2006)
KC-130R (2007)
KC-130T (2021)
Status Active
Primary users United States Marine Corps
Royal Canadian Air Force
Number built KC-130B: 6
KC-130F: 46
KC-130H: 33
KC-130R: 14
KC-130T: 28
KC-130J: 53
Developed from Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules
Developed into Lockheed Martin HC-130J[1]
Lockheed Martin MC-130J[1]

The Lockheed Martin (previously Lockheed) KC-130 is a family of the extended-range tanker version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The KC-130J is the latest variant operated by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), with 48 delivered out of 79 ordered. It replaced older KC-130F, KC-130R, and KC-130T variants for aerial refueling. USMC reserve unit, VMGR-452 operated 12 KC-130T aircraft until May 2021; this was the last USMC reserve unit that operated the legacy KC-130s, completing the corps' transition to the more advanced Super Hercules.


The KC-130F made its first test flight in January 1960 as the GV-1 under the old Navy designation system. First entering service in 1962, the KC-130F was designed to undertake aerial refueling missions in support of USMC aircraft. It was developed from the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

The newest Hercules, the KC-130J, shares 55 percent of the same airframe as preceding models, but in fact is a greatly improved airplane. It is based on the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and provides significant increases in operational capability and performance margins over preceding KC-130F/R/T (legacy) aircraft. Additionally, The KC-130J reduces cost of ownership through system reliability and reduced maintenance man-hours per flight hour.

The new HC-130J combat rescue tanker and MC-130J special operations tanker are both derived from a KC-130J baseline.[1]

Technological development has led to the incorporation of interior/exterior night vision lighting, night vision goggle head-up displays, global positioning system, and jam-resistant radios. Some KC-130s are also equipped with defensive electronic and infrared countermeasures systems.


USMC KC-130 and CH-53Es over the Gulf of Aden, 2003

The KC-130 is a multi-role, multi-mission tactical tanker/transport which provides the refueling support required by the USMC for its aircraft. This versatile asset provides in-flight refueling to both tactical aircraft and helicopters within a 500-nautical-mile (930 km) operating radius, as well as rapid ground refueling when required. Additional tasks performed are aerial delivery of troops and cargo, emergency resupply into unimproved landing zones within the objective or battle area, emergency medical evacuation, tactical insertion of combat troops and equipment, and evacuation missions.


The KC-130J offers a 27,215 kg (60,000 lb) fuel capacity that it can allocate between its own flight requirements against aerial refueling offload capacity using its wing and external tanks while in the air. When more fuel is needed, an additional 11,064 kg (24,392 lb) of fuel can be offloaded from a specially configured internal fuselage 13,627 L (3,600-gallon) aluminum fuel tank. The system also functions without the fuselage tank, so the cargo compartment can be used for cargo on the same mission, giving the aircraft even greater flexibility.

The aircraft is ready to fuel fixed-wing, tilt-rotor, or rotary-wing aircraft using the standard probe and drogue technique. The two wing-mounted hose and drogue refueling pods (made by Sargent Fletcher) can each transfer up to 300 gallons (1,136 L) per minute to two aircraft simultaneously, allowing for rapid cycle times of multiple-receiver aircraft formations, a typical tanker formation of four aircraft in less than 30 minutes.

The KC-130J also provides for rapid ground refueling of helicopters, vehicles and fuel caches. The aircraft has a unique propeller feathering feature (known as "hotel mode", derived from the term hotel electric power, when a vessel or other means of transport is equipped with a power plant with the sole purpose of generating electric power for lighting, etc., rather than propulsion) which can slow (at 25% rotation speed) the propellers while the turbines continue to run and energize the generator, providing power to the electric fuel pumps. This reduction of the propellers' speed helps to eliminate prop wash behind the KC-130J. This allows ground forces to operate in relative calm while the aircraft offloads up to 2,271 L, 1,823 kg (600 gallons, 4,018 pounds) per minute.

The U.S. Marine Corps has chosen the KC-130J to replace its aging KC-130 legacy tanker fleet. The new KC-130J offers increased utility and much needed improvement in mission performance. As a force multiplier, the J-model tanker is capable of refueling both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft as well as conducting rapid ground refueling. The refueling speed envelope has been widened from 100 to 270 knots (500 km/h) indicated airspeed, offering more capability and flexibility.[2] Offload rates per refueling pod can be up to 300 gallons (1,136 L) per minute simultaneously. The KC-130's offload is significantly greater than previous Hercules tankers. As an example, at 1,000 nautical miles (1,852 km), the fuel offload is well over 45,000 pounds (20,412 kg).

Harvest HAWK

With the addition of the Marine Corps's ISR / Weapon Mission Kit, the KC-130J will be able to serve as an overwatch aircraft and can deliver ground support fire in the form of Hellfire or Griffin missiles, precision-guided bombs, and eventually 30mm cannon fire in a later upgrade.[3] This capability, designated as "Harvest HAWK" (Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit), can be used in scenarios where precision is not a requisite, such as area denial.[4]

The AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight System (TSS) integrates an infrared and television camera, and is mounted under the left wing's external fuel tank. It is the same TSS used on the upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter.[5] The typical loadout is four Hellfire missiles and 10 Griffin GPS guided missiles.[6] The weapons systems operator uses a Fire Control Console mounted on an HCU-6/E pallet in the KC-130J's cargo compartment.[7]

The aircraft retains its original capabilities in refueling and transportation. The entire system can be removed in less than a day if necessary.[8] The USAF MC-130W Dragon Spear program uses a similar concept.

The USMC plans to acquire three kits per active-duty KC-130J squadron for a total of nine kits, each costing up to US$22 million.[9] It was first test flown on 29 August 2009 by VX-20, and first deployed in October 2010 with VMGR-352.[8]

The Lockheed Martin KC-130J Harvest HAWK components and operation
Hellfire missile wing pylon launcher
Griffin missile ramp launcher
Griffin missile door launcher
Target Sight System attached to the rear of a wing pylon fuel tank
Acquisition and fire control pallet
Video of KC-130J Harvest HAWK live fire testing with early era equipment, 2013

Operational history

A VMGR-152 KC-130F landing at Dong Ha, Vietnam, in 1967.

The KC-130 has supported operations in the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and other USMC operations over the last fifty years. It also participated in the Falklands War for Argentina.

VMGR-252, Cherry Point, NC, was the first fleet squadron to transition to the KC-130J. Contrary to most military squadrons when they transition to a new aircraft, VMGR-252 did not "stand down" to train and equip for the new airframe. Instead, they continued full-time fleet support with their "legacy" Hercs until fully converted to the J model. This trend was continued by squadrons as they transitioned to the KC-130J.

In February 2005, VMGR-252 made the first operational combat deployment of the KC-130J when six aircraft were deployed to Al Asad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this time VMGR-252 experienced many "firsts" with the new J model conducting aerial refueling, delivery of cargo and passengers, the first combat aerial delivery of supplies by any J model user (the USAF subsequently conducted aerial delivery in Afghanistan with their new J models later that year) and battlefield illumination. VMGR-252 maintained the sole KC-130J presence for a year while VMGR-352 took delivery of and transitioned to the J model. The semi-permissive threat environment and the state of the art defensive systems of the J model permitted it to operate over the battlefield, providing fuel for the jets close to the fight, versus the tanker being far behind the lines in relative sanctuary. On more than one occasion VMGR-252 aircraft came under fire from insurgents, as did VMGR-352 aircraft during subsequent deployments to Iraq.

In 2006, VMGR-252 and 352 shared a joint detachment in Iraq and this paradigm continued for a number of years. In the summer of 2006, VMGR-252 provided a two KC-130J detachment in support of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24MEU) to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus during the Lebanon/Israeli conflict that summer. Also during this time VMGR-252 began extensive operational training and tactics development with the new MV-22 Osprey, refining long range tanker procedures with the new tilt-rotor aircraft.

In Spring 2008, VMGR-252 again made KC-130J history by providing the KC-130J aircraft detachment to 24MEU as they reestablished the USMC presence in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This deployment experienced numerous great KC-130J successes conducting all manner of expeditionary type missions routinely landing at austere dirt runways, tactical aerial delivery of goods, and the traditional logistic support and refueling missions that are the hallmark of USMC KC-130 support.

KC-130J Harvest Hawk weapon launch markings in Afghanistan, 2011.

Though the USMC KC-130Js have left Iraq, a continuing KC-130J presence has now been maintained in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, with aircraft and crews provided by both VMGR-252 and 352 during different periods. In May 2009, the Okinawa-based "SUMOS" of VMGR-152 provided two aircraft and crews to support the OEF presence. This was VMGR-152's first operational combat deployment since Vietnam, and they have been maintaining a continuing presence in Afghanistan with VMGR-352/252.

USMC KC-130J aircraft from VMGR-252 and 352 have additionally been deployed to Djibouti for operations in the Horn of African supporting counter-terrorist operations in the region.

After the 2010 Pakistan floods, KC-130Js from USMC VMGR-352 squadron delivered over 90,000 kg (200,000 lbs) of cargo across Pakistan in support of flood relief efforts.[10]

The Harvest Hawk weapons system for USMC KC-130J aircraft began its first deployment during October 2010 in Afghanistan with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352).[8] Its first weapons engagement was on 4 November supporting the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in Sangin. One Hellfire missile was fired and five enemy insurgents were killed. The battle damage assessment stated there were no civilian casualties or property damage during the fire fight.[6]

A KC-130J from the 26th MEU participated in a pilot rescue during Operation Odyssey Dawn.[11]


The VMGR-252 KC-130R, in this case BuNo 160625 (ex-AF Ser. No. 77-0321), was retired in 2008.
Six C-130B models were modified into in-flight refueling tankers. 4 currently operating with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (all four to be upgraded to KC-130H standard), 1 with Indonesian Air Force.
Enhanced KC-130B, 46 built
Tanker variant of C-130H, 33 built. In addition to these, JASDF has modified several (at least three) of its C-130Hs to have aerial refueling capability and uses them to support its UH-60J rescue helicopters.[12]
14 former USAF aircraft transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. Six had refueling gear removed and were sold to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as C-130R aircraft to replace their remaining YS-11M/M-A aircraft for troop and cargo movement, humanitarian efforts, transport of senior leaders, and medical evacuation.[13][14] Regeneration began in November 2012 and was to be completed by Fall 2013.
Variant from C-130H, 28 built
Variant from C-130H-30, 2 built,[15] transferred to the U.S. Navy and converted to C-130T-30s.
Variant from C-130J


Two VMGR-352 KC-130Js during a training exercise, February 2007.


3 KC-130J in service, with an option to purchase three more[21]
7 are on order[citation needed]
4 KC-130T in service[22]
Operates 2 KC-130H aircraft[citation needed]

Operates two KC-130H aircraft acquired from Spain in 2020.

 Saudi Arabia

The Swedish air force operates 1 KC-130H tanker

The KC-130T has officially been retired from the USMC Reserve on 5 May 2021, here VMGR-452.
 United States

Operates two KC-130H aircraft acquired from Spain in 2020 to replace its two C-130B aircraft.



Specifications (KC-130J)

Data from Lockheed Martin KC-130J Super Tanker fact sheet,[27]

General characteristics

  • 92 passengers or
  • 64 airborne troops or
  • 6 pallets or
  • 74 litter patients with 2 medical personnel
  • 2–3 Humvees or an M113 armored personnel carrier
  • Fuel offload capacity 57,000 lb (25,855 kg)


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c First Lockheed Martin/USAF HC-130J Combat Rescue Tanker Rolls Out | Lockheed Martin Archived 26 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ John Pike. "KC-130J". Globalsecurity.org. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  3. ^ "General James T. Conway on The Posture of the United States Marine Corps". zumwaltfacts.info. 14 May 2009. Archived from the original on 21 November 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  4. ^ McCullough, Amy (1 June 2009). "Refuel and Fire". Marine Corps Times.
  5. ^ "From Hueys to Harvest Hawk: Ordnance Marine arms aircraft in Afghanistan" Archived 6 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine by Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington, DVIDS. 19 May 2011
  6. ^ a b Hurla, Sgt Deanne (16 November 2010). "KC-130J Harvest Hawk takes on new role in Afghanistan". 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs. DVIDS. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Harvest HAWK completes phase one testing here". Naval Air Systems Command. 26 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b c Flurry, SSgt Christopher (1 April 2011). "KC-130J Harvest Hawk: Marine Corps teaches old plane new tricks in Afghanistan". 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd). Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan: United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  9. ^ O'Quin, Cpl Christopher (11 September 2009). "Harvest Hawk mission kit brings new era in Marine aviation". 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  10. ^ States, United (31 August 2010). "Marine Corps KC-130 arrives in Pakistan | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Archived from the original on 24 January 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  11. ^ Lamothe, Dan (22 March 2011). "Details of Marines' pilot rescue released". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on 26 March 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  12. ^ a b Tokunaga, Katsuhiko (September 2021). "Mission AAR: Aerial refueling training of UH-60Js of the Air Rescue Wing". KOKU-FAN (in Japanese). 70 (9). Bunrin-dō: 1–9. NAID 40022651147.
  13. ^ Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force C-130s Archived 23 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 12 February 2017
  14. ^ Sale Gives New Life to Excess C-130s Archived 14 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine – NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 7 March 2013]. Retrieved 27 September 2017
  15. ^ "Lockheed KC-130T-30 Hercules (L-382) - USA - Marines". Airliners. 2 October 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  16. ^ Infodefensa.com (16 May 2016). "Estados Unidos entrega el segundo avión KC-130R 'Hercules' comprado por Chile – Noticias Infodefensa América". infodefensa.com. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  17. ^ "World Air Forces 2020". Archived from the original on 10 December 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  18. ^ "L'armée de l'air, opérationnelle sur Super Hercules dès 2016" (in French). Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Alenia Aeronautica: flight refuelling tests for the Eurofighter Typhoon with Italian Air Force C-130J tanker successfully completed" (PDF). Alenia Aeronautica. 10 November 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Crashed Italian C-130J confirmed as modified tanker". Flight International. 24 November 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  21. ^ "Lockheed Martin Awarded Contract for Kuwait Air Force KC-130J Tankers." Archived 9 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine defpro.com, 27 May 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  22. ^ "Order of Battle – Malaysia". Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  23. ^ "España vende cuatro aviones Hércules de la Base de Zaragoza". Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  24. ^ Gary Parsons (21 September 2010). "Singapore gets first upgraded C-130". Key Publishing. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  25. ^ Greg Waldron (12 November 2010). "Singapore's C-130 upgrade makes progress". Flight International. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  26. ^ "Spanish Air Force says "adiós" to C-130 Hercules". 4 January 2021. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  27. ^ "Fact sheet: KC-130J Super Tanker" Archived 20 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Lockheed Martin, October 2009 Retrieved: 3 October 2010.
  28. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.