The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is an amazing aircraft, having remained in production for 57 years and in military service for 54 years, it seems there is no challenge the Hercules can’t handle. In fact, as the only military aircraft to ever remain in continuous production for more than 50 years, the sheer number of variants of the C-130 covers pretty much every mission you could ask of this aircraft.
It is hard to pinpoint what the C-130 is best known for, as a cargo aircraft? As an aerial gunship? As an aerial tanker? As a search and rescue aircraft? As the United States Marine Corps’ “Fat Albert” supporting The Blue Angels? Its also well known as for its role as a medi-evac aircraft and aerial firefighter … but way back in October 1963 a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130F tackled another amazing mission that seems hard to imagine.
Back in October 1963, the mighty Hercules, with its broad 137 foot 7 inch wingspan and 97 foot 9 inch length, began an experiment to utilize this aircraft as a super-sized Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft. The idea of landing a KC-130F on the 1,076 foot long, 252 foot wide, deck of the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) seemed so far fetched that when Lt. James H. Flatley III was informed of his mission to land the Hercules on the USS Forrestal he remarked “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding.”
Lt. Flatley’s skepticism about landing a KC-130F on the deck of the USS Forrestal wasn’t misguided given that the aircraft’s wings would have just under 15 feet of clearance from the aircraft carrier’s ‘island tower.’
… so what does it look like when a massive turbo prop aircraft lands on an aircraft carrier with no hook and takes off with no catapult? Rather than describe it, take a few minutes to watch the complete video below. The footage and information is just incredible.