The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s C-130J Hercules transport aircraft conducted its first mission in support of the Australian Antarctic Program.
During the February 29 mission, a C-130J assigned to RAAF’s No. 37 Squadron took off from Hobart Airport for the 3400km journey across the Southern Ocean to the ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome in Antarctica.
The flight required the use of a C-130J equipped with external fuel tanks, which increased its total fuel capacity from 19 tonnes to 27 tonnes. The Hercules also carried additional fuel inside its cargo compartment. At Wilkins Aerodrome, this fuel was pumped into the Hercules’ tanks by an Australian Army Ground crewman from 6 Aviation Regiment.
Director of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) Kim Ellis said the flight south to the 3.5km ice runway took about 7.5 hours.
“The Hercules delivered 780 kilograms of cargo to Australia’s expeditioners at nearby Casey research station and demonstrated the ability to carry a larger load if required,” Ellis said. “This is another great capability the Australian Antarctic Program now has to reach our stations, deliver cargo and provide medical support to our people working in Antarctica.”
Commander Australian Contingent for Operation Southern Discovery, Wing Commander Dion Wright, said the flight was one of the longest-range missions undertaken by an Australian C-130J Hercules.
“Using the C-130J provides additional capacity for the RAAF to support the Australian Antarctic Division rather than by relying on the C-17A Globemaster alone,” Wing Commander Wright said.
The last time a RAAF Hercules touched down on Antarctic ice was in 1989, when C-130Hs from No. 36 Squadron flew missions from Christchurch in New Zealand to the American station at McMurdo. The C-130H is the predecessor model of the C-130J.
RAAF’s C-130J Hercules Fleet
RAAF’s C-130J Hercules (known internationally as C-130J Super Hercules) is a medium-sized tactical airlifter developed by American company Lockheed Martin as a comprehensive update of C-130 Hercules airlifter with new engines, flight deck, and other systems.
The C-130J can carry up to 128 passengers, or eight pallets of cargo. The aircraft can deliver cargo to airfields with short unsurfaced runways, and airdrop cargo and paratroops by parachute. It can also be used in other roles, such as Search and Survivor Assistance and medical evacuation of wounded or sick patients.
The C-130J Hercules was introduced to RAAF service in 1999. A fleet of 12 is operated from RAAF Base Richmond by No. 37 Squadron with the last one delivered in 2001.
In RAAF service, C-130Js work alongside the service’s other airlifters, the C-27J Spartan and C-17A Globemaster III.