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And Then There Were Three Commando Carriers
by James Dunnigan
May 23, 2011

Israel has ordered two more of the stretched version of the American C-130J transport. Like the first one, ordered a year ago, these two will also be modified for special operations (commando) missions. This means the aircraft is equipped with night vision gear, more radios, radar warning equipment and counter-measures for anti-aircraft missiles. India and the U.S. are also buying this special operations model. All three Israeli C-130Js are to be delivered within three years.

Three years ago, Israel sought to buy nine of the latest model of the C-130, the C-130J. These would cost about $200 million each, and Israel eventually found they could not afford all of them right now. So one was ordered, and now two more. The C-130Js enable Israel to carry out commando raids in distant countries, like Sudan and Iran.

Israel began using the C-130 in 1971, and most of its current 22 C-130s are older models in need of replacement. C-130s can last a long time, as the Israelis are finding out. But budget problems have forced Israel to delay ordering more new C-130s. This is not a catastrophe. The oldest known C-130 served 47 years and spent over 32,000 hours in the air. On average, C-130s last about 25 years, and about 20,000 hours in the air. The C-130 has been in service 51 years. So far, over 2,200 have been built, and it is still in production. That is unprecedented. Several other military aircraft remained in service over half a century (the British Canberra , B-52, the Russian Tu-95, AN-2, and the U.S. DC-3). But no other aircraft has remained in production for so long. The C-130 is used by more than 50 countries.

Originally, the C-130 was designed to carry 15 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, a range of over 12,000 kilometers, and can carry 20 tons of cargo.

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