Hercules C-130 RAF transport

During the Falklands war of 1982 the famous Vulcan Operation Black Buck bombing mission of Port Stanley Airfield and the excellent work of the Harrier Jump jets is always mentioned. What people forget is the sterling work of the support services that enable the soldiers and pilots on the front line to carry out their mission. One such un-sung part of the UK military machine were the pilots, crew and ground staff who operated the RAF Hercules C-130 RAF transport aircraft.

Hercules aircraft continually flew to the Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic with supplies and personnel. They were often refuelled by RAF Victor tankers. Rather than just going back and forth from the UK they were also involved in dropping SAS and SBS special forces plus their equipment by parachute to waiting ships and submarines in the Atlantic. Going to war by jumping into the cold Atlantic Ocean from 1,000ft is not the most ideal way of starting a deployment.

RAF Lockheed Hercules C-130 RAF transport aircraft were used during the Falkland Islands War

was by this means that units could arrive on the Falkland Islands before the main task force had left Ascension Island. One of my work colleagues at the time had been in the Army. His brother was still in the Army, part of one of the four man SAS teams landed by submarine on the Falkland Islands to do reconnaissance. They were tasked with finding out about the location of military units in the capital Port Stanley. He told me just after the war that his brother’s team over powered an Argentinian patrol and used their uniforms to walk into town. They went into the Post Office and sent a post card to the leaders of the Argentinian Government on the main land. It read “Having a wonderful time. See you soon. Love 21st Regiment Special Air Service, British Army.”

The RAF Hercules had to be fitted with a refuelling probe for the first time. The Wideawake Airfield on the Ascension Islands was right on the limit of the 4000 nautical mile range of a C-130 fitted with external fuel tanks. There was no margin for error. There was a big problem to overcome to enable inflight refuelling. The Victor had to fly extremely slowly, near stall speed to match the top speed of the C130 Hercules. By trial and error the agreed speed for successful refuelling was 230kts. Both aircraft had to maintain this same speed as it took 30 minutes to transfer the normal amount of 37,000lbs of fuel. The two aircraft had to meet at 22,000ft for the refuelling probe hook-up.

Nose and cockpit of a RAF Lockheed Hercules C-130 RAF transport aircraft

When the Hercules started its mission it would have a full load of fuel. That would be about 45,000lbs of fuel in internal tanks and 18,700lbs of aviation fuel in external tanks. During the refuelling process both aircraft would lose height at the rate of 500ft a minute towards the cold Atlantic.

Hercules C-130 books

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