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C-130J Super Hercules makes historic first flight with external fuel tanks under its wings

It's the first in America Air Mobility Command history to fly with external fuel tanks

  • The C-130J Super Hercules has made history
  • It’s the first in America’s Air Mobility Command to fly with external fuel tanks
  • They sat beneath its wings as it flew for the Max Endurance Operation (MEO) mission

Published on May 9, 2024 at 2:22PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on May 10, 2024 at 1:18PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Tom Wood

The C-130J Super Hercules has made history as the first in America’s Air Mobility Command to fly with external fuel tanks attached beneath its wings.

It was flown for a special mission of the Max Endurance Operation (MEO).

Said to be the ‘backbone of NATO’s airlift superiority’, the plane was designed by Lockheed Martin.

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The first comes shortly after almost three million hours of tests that started last year.

External fuel tanks are fairly commonplace for fighter planes of the US Air Force (USAF), like the F16, which is currently undergoing AI testing.

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In fact, pilots from the Spanish Civil War in 1923 used them to extend aircraft range.

The extra fuel tanks gave the C-130J Super Hercules an extra 17,000 pounds of fuel, which equates to 7,700 liters.

This translated into an extra four hours of airtime – essential if it needs to be deployed fast in the Indo-Pacific area.

However, more testing in a controlled environment is needed before it’s deployed in the real world.

The 317th Airlift Wing recently took part in Exercise Hazard Spear and Balikatan 2024 earlier this month.

However these ‘drop tanks’ are almost unheard of for military transport aircraft.

The latest in the C-130 Hercules family, as well as one of the largest, it allows a small crew of two pilots and a loadmaster to transport tons of supplies up to 4,828 km (3,000 miles).

450 of them have been delivered to operators worldwide.

The mission that the first flight was part of was labeled Hazard Leap.

It saw the C-130J Super Hercules fly from an unknown USA location to Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. island territory of Guam.

The secrecy surrounding the mission means we aren’t sure how far this mission was.

However, the external fuel tanks were credited for the plane landing only once in Hawaii to refuel.

The MEO mission required careful route planning, including planning for wind patterns and storms required.

The USAF hasn’t released a statement on how common these drop tanks could become, stating it entirely depends on the mission.

Check out its predecessor, the C-130 Hercules, aka ‘Fat Albert’, perform a rocket takeoff that looks like an explosion.

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