If you read The War Zone regularly you are fully aware of our fascination with the legendary C-130 Hercules. The aircraft can be transformed to satisfy seemingly any logical application, and Lockheed continues to roll out new and highly relevant variants some 60 years after the first "Herky Bird" flew. Even the more exotic C-130 derivatives that were never built seem like totally logical evolutions of the C-130 concept in retrospect. But one capability that is anything but new for the super-versatile aerial hauler is operating from rough and austere airstrips.
USAF Combat Controllers can deploy to pretty much anywhere with the space available to land a C-130. Once on station, they act as both an advance party to prep the field and as guides to call in the aircraft. When teamed with thehardy Hercules, their combined talents can make big things happen in the middle of nowhere.
Case in point, this training exercise featured in the video below, where a USAF C-130J lands on what appears to be dry lakebed with the help of their Air Force Special Operations facilitators. The rugged nature of the C-130J is readily apparent when the entire aircraft becomes engulfed in a storm of blowing dust that is stirred up by its props laboring in reverse configuration. It is a spectacular piece of footage capturing the abilities of an equally spectacular aircraft.
Operations like these are underway right now in places like eastern Syria and other clandestine locales, and they often occur under the darkness of night. The ability to deliver vehicles and supplies cargo to austere forward operating locations, and to be able to support the personnel stationed there in a sustained manner independent of vulnerable land routes, is a capability that is as relevant today as ever. With C-130 transportable precision artillery weapons like HiMARS, small and isolated units can pack a big precision punch and can support friendly forces via showering the enemy with precision fires from dozens of miles away without the need of aircraft overhead.
Above all else, being able to access contested territory via tactical airlift on a grand scale is a capability that remains largely unique to the US armed forces, and the C-130 is an indispensable component of that prized capability.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com