Old "Herc" a pioneer in laser guided bombing, another Blindbat first
C-130, a multi-role aircraft, you have our respect
First, we want to convey our respect to the many roles played by the C-130 "Herc" and the crews that flew them. Why? Because.
There are several superb web sites that have terrific imagery of the C-130 in her various military and scientific roles. We will show you a few and point you in the right direction for further study.
The C-130 "Herc" first flew on August 23, 1954. This was the "A" model, the C-130A. It so happens that the Blindbats were A-models, flown in the 1960s and 1970s in combat in Vietnam. The C-130 is still in production, now up to the "J" model, shown in the photo below.
The A, B and D versions are now retired. Throughout her many lives, the Herc has done tactical airlift (within a theater of battle), DEW Line, Arctic and Antarctic ice resupply, aeromedical, aerial spray, fire-fighting, natural disaster relief, aerial recovery of space vehicles, drone control, special operations insertion and extraction, paradrops of people, supplies and heavy equipment, search and rescue, psychological warfare, electronic, photographic, and weather reconnaissance and surveillance, maritime patrol, electronic warfare, in-flight refueling and probably others we have inadvertently missed or don't know about.
There once was a C-130 aerial demonstration team known as "the Four Horsemen." The team performed public demonstrations at military air bases throughout the world in the 1950s. The next two photos show the Four Horsemen.
"The Four Horsemen," from left to right, Captains Gene Chaney, William Hatfield, Jim Akin, and David Moore. Presented by Hercules and the Four Horsemen.
The Four Horsemen demonstrating the "Bomb Burst." Presented by Hercules and the Four Horsemen.
The Marines still do public demonstrations with the TG-130 known as "Fat Albert." It is the only Marine Corps aircraft permanently assigned to support a Navy squadron. It is flown by an all-Marine Corps crew of three pilots and five enlisted personnel. Fat Albert flies more than 140,000 miles during the course of a show season.
Fat Albert demonstrates its Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) capability. Eight solid-fuel rockets are attached to the sides of the aircraft, four on each side. The rockets allow Fat Albert to take off within 1,500 feet, climb at a 45-degree angle, and attain an altitude of 1,500 feet in seconds. Presented by the Blue Angels Fat Albert Airlines
The Herc has even dropped bombs, the 15,000 lb. BLU-82, the largest conventional weapon in the US arsenal.
"The Blu-Riders," three USAF airmen waiting to load her on a C-130, we believe sometime during the Vietnam War. Presented by FAS.org
C-130s dropped these from a minimum altitude of 6,000 feet in Vietnam, primarily to clear helicopter landing zones. It was designed to clear vegetation without creating a crater. Eleven of these were dropped by Special Operations C-130s in the Desert Storm, first Iraq War, primarily to clear mines, and to work as a psychological weapon. They have also been used in Afghanistan, targeted at tunnels.
Believe it or not, the C-130 has conducted aircraft carrier operations. In this latter role, she did 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights up to 121,000 lbs. She carried the nose-art that said, "Look ma, no hook!"
Marine KC-130F on loan to the Navy taking off from the USS Forrestal. Presented by aerospaceweb.org
Marine KC-130F on loan to the Navy on the deck of the USS Forrestal. Presented by aerospaceweb.org
The AC-130 Spectre Gunship is known to many Americans, and to many of their enemies. She has been employed in combat since Vietnam, and is working over enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to this day. This is a highly feared weapon system by our enemies, and for good reason.
This is an AC-130 Spectre Gunship firing, and you can see the tracer. USAF photo presented by The Aviation Zone.
The AC-130H Pave Spectre has twin 20-mm Vulcan rotary cannons that fire at a rate of 7,200 rounds per minute (spent round casings have to be shoveled to clear them); a 40-mm Bofors gun that fires at a rate of 100 rounds per minute; a 105-mm Howitzer that fires 44 lb shells at 10 rounds per minute; and optional 7.62 mm miniguns. As you will learn later, the Blindbat C-130As contributed to the development of this mean machine.
The DC-130 is a drone launcher and controller. This is a photo of one carrying two drones.
Many descriptions of this aircraft available in the public domain will tell you that its mission was to launch target drones. That's true. But it has also been in the business of launching unmanned reconnaissance drones for a very long time, from when these kinds of drones were first developed up to the present. The drones carried here look very much like a Buffalo Hunter (AQM-34) reconnaissance drone launched from over South Vietnam against enemy held targets, mainly surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, after which the drone would return to friendly skies, deploy a parachute, and be caught mid-air by a waiting helicopter. The AQM-34 itself was modified for a multitude of different kinds of intelligence gathering and electronic countermeasures missions. The DC-130 is a fun aircraft to explore. We have seen references to its use over China and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, as a standby replacement for U2 flights over Cuba, and most recently, as part of a program said to be named "Senior Prom," a "subscale unmanned F-117 look-alike designed to conduct stealthy reconnaissance overflights of high threat targets," allegedly operating from the Cold War until today.
Then, of course, you have a series of aircraft known as the EC-130s. You could spend a good part of a lifetime exploring these. You have the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC), the Commando Solo psychological broadcast warfare aircraft, the Compass Call aircraft configured to perform tactical command, control and communications countermeasures or C3CM, and the EC-130V airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. One of the great advantages of the "Herc" in all these and many other roles is that it has a large interior, and can digest all kinds of roll-on/roll-off "capsules" that can contain all kinds of different equipment and crews.
ABCCC crew. Presented by Global Security.
This editor is very partial to the ABCCC. The ABCCC crews were our contact with "life" while flying aboard EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft over South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during that war. ABCCCs were on station over Laos 24-7, with callsigns like "Moonbeam" and "Hillsboro." If we got in trouble, it was like this:
"Hillsboro, Hillsboro, Hillsboro, this is Baron 35 declaring an IFE (inflight emergency), one engine on fire, request air support (search and rescue, fighters), intend to recover at Channel XX (identified an airbase)."
These ABCCC guys would ask a lot of questions, like they do if they roll you into the emergency room of a hospital, and then arranged everything to come to your aid, every time, always calm, always reassuring, always professional. We also passed targets to the ABCCC and the it would arrange for air attacks. It was a terrific sight to report a target to the ABCCC and within minutes see incoming fighter aircraft pound them into the jungle, never to be seen again.
Here's the Commando Solo capsule, presented by Global Security.
And a Compass Call capsule, also presented by Global Security.
You get the idea. Versatility "par excellance."
In the mix is the MC-130P Combat Shadow and MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft. These are both special operations aircraft which will create lots of excitement for those with the interest to study their missions.
Combat Shadow flies clandestine or low visibility, single or multi-ship low-level missions intruding politically sensitive or hostile territory to provide air refueling for special operations helicopters. The MC-130P primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats.
Combat Talon I and MC-130H Combat Talon II provide infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory.
The combination of the AC-130 Spectre gunship, the MC-130P Combat Shadow, and the MC-130H Combat Talon make a formidable special operations capability. This is the trend for the future. Instead of grand invasions and traditional forward lines of the battle, we will be in with small, highly lethal packages of joint forces, air, ground and sea, they will attack and destroy specific targets, and they'll get out just as quickly as they came in, with nearly everything occurring at night.
As an editorial comment, we believe this kind if warfare will form the centerpiece of how we fight as soon as we get out of Iraq. Even now, with the exception of Baghdad, we are planning to pull back to highly defensible bases in Iraq along its border from which small teams will strike specific targets in Iraq as we have described in the previous paragraph. Even in Baghdad, many of our forces will be located in highly defensible positions and will strike out as needed to destroy targets causing problems for the Iraqi military and the civilian population.
Exposed to heavy enemy fire, a C-130A is seen here during a ground proximity extraction (pallet insertion) of desperately needed materiel at Khe Sanh during the siege (Vietnam War). Presented by Airlift in Vietnam.
To conclude this section, we show you a C-130 "trash hauler" during a ground proximity extraction of its load of supplies without landing at Khe Sanh. There was, no doubt, a steep and gyrating tactical approach and tactical egress to go with it. Note this crew has this aircraft aloft, but only a few feet off the ground. They were most likely taking hostile fire all the way, but doing it this way was better than landing, having to stop and unload, turn around and then take off again.
We said earlier the term "trash hauler" was not really fair, though it will never go away. We'll refer you to the words of Jackie Dent, writing "Wings of Mercy" for the October 23, 2002 edition of Bulletin, an Australian on-line publication. Dent said this about C-130 crews:
"Being a trash hauler, as Hercules pilots are nicknamed, is akin to being a national asset."
We certainly have not shown you all the missions conducted by the C-130. We simply wanted to give you a flavor, hoping you will look into them yourselves and find one or more you'd liked to learn about in more detail.
We want to move on to the main purpose of this report, which is to talk about the C-130A Blindbats. In our December 15, 2004 report, entitled, “Blind Bat, Yellowbirds, Willy the Whale, on Uncle Ho's trail,” we introduced our readers to the Blindbat flareships, and the role they played hunting down truck convoys on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night. You might wish to go back to that to learn the Blindbats' history in Vietnam and its early mission operations. We are going to talk about the Blindbats as they evolved later on in the war.
Specifically, in the next section, we will introduce you to the pioneering role played by the Blindbat in laser guided bombing in Vietnam.