HomeAbout UsFact SheetsDisplay

WC-130 Hercules

The WC-130 Hercules is a high-wing, medium-range aircraft flown by the Air Force Reserve Command for weather reconnaissance missions. The WC-130J is the weather data collection platform for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron located at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

The WC-130 Hercules is a high-wing, medium-range aircraft flown by the Air Force Reserve Command for weather reconnaissance missions. The WC-130J is the weather data collection platform for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron located at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. - An Air Force Reserve Command WC-130 Hercules sits on the runway here.  The Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron evacuated their home at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., before Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. Despite their own personal losses, the reservists continued to track tropical storms in the Caribbean. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bo Joyner)

AF File Image

Staff Sgt. Karon Evans washes the flight deck windows on a Hurricane Hunter WC-130J Hercules before a training mission leaving St. Croix, V.I. Sergeant Evans is a crew chief assigned to the 403rd Wing from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The training mission covered the Air Force Reserve Command's weather reconnaissance mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Staff Sgt. Karon Evans washes the flight deck windows on a Hurricane Hunter WC-130J Hercules before a training mission leaving St. Croix, V.I. Sergeant Evans is a crew chief assigned to the 403rd Wing from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The training mission covered the Air Force Reserve Command's weather reconnaissance mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Mission
The WC-130 Hercules is a high-wing, medium-range aircraft flown by the Air Force Reserve Command for weather reconnaissance missions. The aircraft penetrates tropical disturbances and storms, hurricanes and winter storms to obtain data on movement, size and intensity. The WC-130J is the weather data collection platform for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron located at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

Features
The WC-130J is a C-130J transport configured with palletized weather instrumentation that collects weather data, and is capable of staying aloft almost 18 hours at an optimum cruise speed of more than 300 mph.

The WC-130 provides vital tropical cyclone forecasting information. It penetrates tropical cyclones and hurricanes at altitudes ranging from 500 to 10,000 feet (151.7 to 3,033.3 meters) above the ocean surface depending upon the intensity of the storm.

An average weather reconnaissance mission might last 11 hours and cover almost 3,500 miles while the crew collects and reports weather data. The WC-130J carries a minimal crew of five: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, aerial reconnaissance weather officer and weather reconnaissance loadmaster.

The aircraft is equipped with two external 1,400 gallon (5,320-liter) fuel tanks and an internal 1,800 gallon (6,480 liter) fuel tank.

From the front of the cargo compartment, the aerial reconnaissance weather officer operates the computerized weather reconnaissance equipment and acts as flight director in the storm environment. The weather officer also evaluates other meteorological conditions such as turbulence, icing, visibility, cloud types and amounts and ocean surface winds. The ARWO uses the equipment to determine the storm's center and analyze atmospheric conditions such as pressure, temperature, dew point and wind speed.

A critical piece of weather equipment on board the WC-130J is the dropsonde system. The GPS Dropsonde Windfinding System is a cylindrically-shaped instrument about 16 inches long and 3.5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 2.5 pounds. The dropsonde is equipped with a high frequency radio and other sensing devices and is released from the aircraft around every 400 miles over water. As the instrument descends to the sea surface, it measures and relays to the aircraft a vertical atmospheric profile of the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure and wind data. The dropsonde is slowed and stabilized by a small parachute. The dropsonde system operator receives, analyzes and encodes the data for transmission by satellite.

In May 2007, the WC-130J were equipped with the Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer, which continuously measures the surface winds and rainfall rates below the aircraft.

Background
The WC-130 is flown exclusively from Keesler AFB by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an AFRC organization assigned to the 403rd Wing known as the Hurricane Hunters. The hurricane reconnaissance area includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and eastern and central Pacific Ocean areas.

The WC-130J Hercules is a modified version of the C-130 transport configured with computerized weather instrumentation for penetration of severe storms.

The WC-130B became operational in 1959, the E model in 1962, followed by the H model in 1964. Only the J model is currently in operation and replaced the H model.

The aircraft's most important function is to collect high-density, high-accuracy weather data from within the storm's environment. This includes penetration of the vortex, or hurricane eye, of the storm. The aircraft normally flies a radius of about 100 miles from the vortex to collect detailed data about the structure of the tropical cyclone

The information collected makes possible advance warning of hurricanes and increases the accuracy of hurricane predictions and warnings by as much as 30 percent. Collected data are relayed directly to the National Hurricane Center, in Miami, a Department of Commerce weather agency that tracks hurricanes and provides warning service in the Atlantic area.

General Characteristics
Primary Function:
Weather reconnaissance
Contractor: Lockheed-Martin Corp.
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprops
Thrust: More than 4,700 horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 6 inches (39.7 meters)
Length: 99 feet, 4 inches (30.10 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.67 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Speed: 417 mph (Mach 0.59; 362 knots per hour) at 22,000 feet
Range: 1,841 miles (1,600 nautical miles) with payload
Ceiling: 28,000 feet (8,615 meters)
Armament: none
Crew: Five (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, aerial reconnaissance weather officer and weather reconnaissance loadmaster/dropsonde system operator)
Date Deployed: 1964
Unit Cost: Approximately $13 million (1960 dollars)
Inventory: Active force; 0; ANG, 0; Reserve, 10

(Current as of May 2014)

Engage

Twitter
RT @SecDef: As America’s 26th Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall III’s decades of expertise and impact in service to our national se…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Mr. Frank Kendall has been confirmed by the Senate as the 26th Secretary of the Air Force! In this role, he will lead ho…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The Honorable Gina Ortiz Jones has arrived! “Serving as the Under Secretary of the Air Force is an absolute honor! I’m…
Twitter
A little #MondayMotivation from the 33rd Fighter Wing “Nomads,” @TeamEglin flight line ops-- are the graduate flyin… https://t.co/Ua0opwxkWH
Twitter
The 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conducted a mobile training team engagement with the Jamaican Defense… https://t.co/mLoRIEZxu1
Twitter
Another week clear for take off. #AirPower A crewchief marshals an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Combat Raider Exerc… https://t.co/avL8z6c33J
Twitter
One step closer... #AirForce Officer Training School candidates complete a four-phase, nine-and-a-half week progra… https://t.co/gQNQ2IMlim
Twitter
You got this! 💪 https://t.co/WnevIeJbQ4
Twitter
Not a bad way to cool off in the summer. The 815th Airlift Squadron's Reserve #Airmen visited Alaska to airlift o… https://t.co/DElqEx4JwJ
Twitter
RT @USAFRecruiting: Built different 😤 These @airforcespecwar exercises will put your strength to the test and show you what muscles these…
Twitter
Another Air Force week complete, and we've got it in photos! View the rest here: https://t.co/OkjRFKvDjz https://t.co/HXcWkJN35U
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: On behalf of our #Airmen and families, congrats and welcome to Ms. Jones, our new Under Secretary of the @usairforce. #…
Twitter
Jumping into the weekend Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron pe… https://t.co/VLRxCb90mw
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Getting ready for the big leap into civilian life? #Airmen preparing to separate from active duty service can take steps towar…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary Roth on the confirmation of Gina Ortiz Jones to serve as the Under Secretary of the Air Force. ⬇️ https…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Confirmed yesterday by the Senate, Gina Ortiz Jones will be the next Under Secretary of the Air Force! Read more ⬇️ @US
Twitter
The Senate unanimously confirmed Gina Ortiz Jones to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, clearing the way for the… https://t.co/Q8SFw2fq45
Twitter
Hundreds of Airmen participated alongside @USArmy Soldiers in the inaugural Pacific Warriorz 2021 Joint and Total… https://t.co/fAPp4UGjmW
Twitter
RT @US_EUCOM: #JF21-2 is designed to test simulated emergency response procedures, ballistic missile defense & crisis response assistance i…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,354,454
Follow Us