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First flying 68 years ago, the Lockheed Hercules is a four-engine military transport plane that has seen extensive service throughout NATO and other nations around the world. The Hercules is still in production as the C-130J Super Hercules. In addition to transport, operators of the C-130 have found a variety of different uses for the type. This has included being a gunship armed with artillery cannons, search and rescue, scientific research, aerial refuelling, electronic combat and maritime patrol to name but a few. Whilst the C-130J is still in production and is still receiving new orders, the RAF were the launch customer for this new version of the Hercules in 1995 and will be retiring their last example shortly before this year's Air Tattoo.
The USAF operates the original C-130 and the C-130J in a variety of mission fits, some so specialised that they receive their own designation. The WC-130 family of USAF Hercules are specially configured for the weather reconnaissance mission. The first WC-130 entered service in 1962 to take atmospheric samples following Russian nuclear weapon tests. The latest version of the WC-130, the WC-130J Weatherbird entered service in 1999 and a fleet of ten are operated by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron who use the type to track and research tropical cyclones and hurricanes in an effort to enhance the prediction of their behaviour.
The 53rd WRS from the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base will be providing one of their WC-130J Weatherbirds for static at this year's Air Tattoo. Photo Credit: Stuart Freer