KC-130J Hercules Tanker

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Product Type:

Aerial Refueling Tanker

Using Service (US):

Marine Corps (USMC)

Program Status:

In Production

Prime Contractors:

Lockheed Martin Corp.

The KC-130J Hercules Tanker

About the KC-130J:

The Lockheed Martin KC-130J is a military transport/aerial refueling aircraft. It is used for aerial refueling, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and airborne assault. The aircraft will replace U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130F, KC-130R, and KC-130T tankers (mainly the KC-130F). To achieve the global reach and rapid deployability required by the U.S. military, the Marine Corps must be able to deliver troops, fuel and cargo wherever needed. Complementing its role as a tactical aerial refueling platform, the KC-130J can resupply austere battle zones, provide a Direct Air Support Center, insert ground troops, and perform MEDEVAC missions.

The KC-130J is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines rated at 4,591 shp each. The improved power performance of the KC-130J provides 40% greater range, 25% higher cruise ceiling, 46% decrease in time-to-climb, 21% increase in maximum speed and 41% decrease in maximum effort take-off run over existing KC-130F/R/T models.

The KC-130J has the capability to refuel low-speed helicopters and high-speed jet aircraft. Able to carry more than 12,000 gallons (45,425 liters) of fuel and simultaneously refuel two aircraft at 300 gallons a minute from its Sargent Fletcher (Cobham) aerial refueling pods, the KC-130J has been called the workhorse of Marine Corps aviation. Also, the KC-130J is equipped with a removable 3,600 gallon (13,627 liter) fuel tank carried inside the cargo compartment to provide additional fuel when needed. Aerial refueling of helicopters is normally conducted at 6,000 feet or below, at an airspeed of 132 mph (213 km/h). Helicopter aerial refueling can be conducted at night with blacked out communication with up to two helicopters simultaneously. Additionally, forward area refueling point operations can be executed to support forces on the ground.

As a tactical transport, the KC-130J can carry up to 92 ground troops or 64 paratroopers + equipment. Also, the aircraft can be configured for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions and is capable of carrying 74 litter patients plus medical staff. The KC-130J can land and takeoff on short runways and can be used on remote and primitive landing strips. The KC-130J is equipped with a fully-integrated dual inertial navigation and global positioning system (INS/GPS) and night vision goggle compatible interior and exterior lighting. The cockpit features state-of-the-art electronics with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) instrumentation. Countermeasures include the BAE Systems AN/ALR-56M radar warning receiver (RWR), AN/AAR-47(V) missile warning system (MWS), and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system.

The KC-130J is operated by a crew of five, including three officers (pilot, co-pilot and combat system officer) and two loadmasters. Harvest HAWK retrofitted KC-130Js also have a fire control operator. Learn more about the Harvest HAWK weapons kit below.

The KC-130J made its first flight on June 9, 2000 and the three test aircraft were deployed to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron VMGR-252 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. The KC-130J achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in September 2004. The KC-130J program currently calls for a total delivery of 104 aircraft by 2030 (79 for the USMC and 25 for the Navy Reserve).

Harvest HAWK:

Harvest HAWK (Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit) is a $22 million mission kit that can be installed on the KC-130J. With the addition of the kit, the KC-130J will be able to serve as an overwatch aircraft and can deliver ground support fire in the form of AGM-114P Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, Raytheon AGM-175 Griffin short-range air-to-surface missiles, MBDA GBU-44/B Viper Strike gliding munitions, and a side-mounted Orbital ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster 30mm cannon.

The Harvest HAWK retrofitted KC-130J will use the AN/AAQ-30 Targeting Sight System (TSS) located under the left wing's external fuel tank. The AN/AAQ-30 is also used on the Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. In place of the left-hand underwing aerial refueling pod, an AGM-114P Hellfire II weapons rack that can carry a maximum of four missiles is installed. The right wing can still carry fuel for aerial refueling, thus retaining the aircraft's versatility. A fire control operator will manage the TSS and weapons from a removable cargo platform mounted fire control station. The flexible design of the Harvest HAWK weapons kit allows Marines to remove it and mount it onto another modified KC-130J between flights.


None. However, Harvest HAWK retrofitted aircraft are equipped with AGM-114P Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, Raytheon AGM-175 Griffin short-range air-to-surface missile, and MBDA GBU-44/B Viper Strike gliding munitions.

KC-130J Production Forecast:

A 15-year KC-130J production forecast is available through Forecast International's Platinum Forecast System, which includes a breakout of total market unit and value statistics by manufacturer and end-user. This real-time service also includes information on all prime and subcontractors, contract awards, worldwide inventories, a complete program history, and a rationale detailing the outlook of the program. A 10-year KC-130J production forecast is also available in report format through Forecast International's Military Aircraft Forecast service.


The KC-130J is a military transport/aerial refueling aircraft. Its missions are aerial refueling, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and airborne assault.

FY 2023 & FY 2024 - KC-130J DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Lockheed Martin Corp.,
Northrop Grumman, and Rolls-Royce plc

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