The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and Lockheed C-130 Hercules are two of the largest military cargo aircraft in the world. There are some parallels in their design, capabilities, and use, but they vary in particular aspects. Below is a detailed comparison between the c17 vs c130.
After World War II and the Korean War, it became clear to the United States Air Force (USAF) that piston-engine aircraft were not powerful enough. In February 1951, the U.S. Air Force issued new General Operating Requirements to the top aircraft manufacturing companies, including Lockheed, Boeing, Fairchild, Chase Aircraft, Martin, Northrop, North American, and Airlifts Inc.
They needed a tactical aircraft with a cargo compartment that would be 41feet long, 10 feet wide, and 9 feet high. It would accommodate 72 combat troops or 64 paratroopers or 92 passengers and have a combat transport aircraft design with a hinged loading ramp at the rear.
Lockheed, Boeing, Chase, Douglass, and Airlifts Inc. sent their proposals, while Fairchild, Martin, Northrop, and North American declined. The leading proposals were L-206 by Lockheed and a four-turboprop design by Douglas.
Lockheed won and proceeded to design the YC-130. Initially, it made two prototypes, and only one flew. After the prototype was confirmed, it delivered the first units to the U.S. Air Force in 1956 and manufactured 2,300 over the decades.
In the 1970S, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) was actively looking for a more powerful tactical cargo aircraft. To find a suitable designer and manufacturer, it conducted the Advanced Medium STOL transport competition.
Boeing and McDonnell Douglas entered, proposing the YC-14 and YC-15, respectively. Both were great options that met and exceeded the USAF design requirements. However, they did not proceed to the development phase as USAF canceled the competition before announcing the winner.
The need for a powerful tactical aircraft continued to get dire. In 1980, the USAF reached out to McDonnel Douglas to design the C17, which partnered with Boeing.
The C17 design was inspired by several of its predecessors, including the Douglas C-74 Globemaster, Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, and the YC-15. It was mainly a redesign of the YC-15 with swept wings, a more powerful engine, and more space.
The design and development phase was quite expensive as the USAF incurred a loss of about $1.5 billion. The airlifter made its maiden flight on 15 September 1991, one year behind schedule due to limited funding as some key stakeholders felt that there could have been a more cost-effective alternative. Only 120 aircraft were produced and released in the market, rather than the 210 units initially proposed.
The C17 entered the USAF service on 17 January 1995. In 1996, the DOD ordered the production of an additional 80 units. In 1997, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged and continued to produce the C17. The most recent variant of the aircraft was released in November 2015.
The C17 is primarily for strategic and tactical airlifting missions, such as transporting troops and cargo to war zones, and sometimes for medical evacuation and airdrops.
Aside from being used by the USAF, Australia, Canada, Qatar, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the Heavy Airlift Wing have also used it. This plane played a critical role during the Iraq and Afghanistan war and helped deliver humanitarian aid during the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Sindh floods.
The C130 is a medevac and cargo transport aircraft. However, it found wide application in other areas, including search and rescue, airborne assault, gunship, aerial fighting, aerial refueling, and weather reconnaissance. It is now mainly used as a tactical airlifter.
Like the C17, it was used worldwide, including in Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Canada, Belgium, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Saudi Arabia.
Size and Cargo Payload
The Boeing c17 is 174 feet long with a wingspan of about 169 feet. The cargo compartment is 88 feet long by 18 feet wide by 12 feet 4 inches high. For cargo operations, there is room for three crew members: a pilot, copilot, and loadmaster.
Its standard design includes rollers on the cargo floor for palletized cargo. However, the floor flips to provide a flat floor for loading vehicles and other rolling stock. It can accommodate three Stryker armored vehicles, one M1 Abrams tank, or two M2 Bradley armored vehicles.
It has a maximum payload of about 170,900 pounds with a maximum takeoff weight of 585,000 pounds. It can also carry troops as follows:
- 102 paratroopers or;
- 134 troops with sidewall and palletized seats or;
- 54 troops with sidewall seats or;
- 54 ambulatory patients and medical attendants
With a payload of about 170,900 pounds, it can cruise at an altitude of 28,000ft unrefueled for up to 2,400 nautical miles. Its average cruise speed is 450 knots (850km/h). When unloaded, it can cover a distance of up to 6,230 nautical miles.
It operates on short and narrow runways – 3500ft long and 90ft wide. The runways can be paved or unpaved, and thrust reversers make it possible to do a three-point turn on narrow taxiways. The aircraft has high-performance speed brakes that enable rapid deceleration and maneuvers. Each flight hour requires 20 manhours of maintenance.
Comparatively, the C130 has a higher crew capacity but lower load capacity overall. The cabin has room for up to five people, including two pilots, a flight engineer, loadmaster, and CSO/navigator. Its maximum payload is 42,000 lbs, and its troop capacity is as follows:
- 92 passengers or;
- 64 airborn troops or;
- 74 litter patients with 5 medical crew or;
- 6 pallets
It can fit two to three humvees, two M113 armored personnel carriers, or a CEASER self-propelled howitzer.
The C17 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines based on the Pratt & Whitney PW2040 used in the commercial aircraft Boeing 757. Each of the four engines is rated to produce 180kN thrust.
The engine thrust reversers direct exhaust air forward and upwards, reducing the risk of foreign objects such as runway debris from getting in. The reverse thrusters provide adequate torque to back up the aircraft while taxiing, and the torque also provides adequate drag in maximum rate descents. Vortex surfing tests indicate that the C17s have up to 10% fuel saving.
On the other hand, the initial model of the C130 was powered by four Allison T56-A-11 or nine engines. It has since been upgraded and is now powered by the Allison T56-A-7 turboprop engines. The engines continue to upgrade over the years with the development of new versions of the C130.
One of the most powerful engines on a C130 was the Allison T56-A-15, which was fitted on the C-130E. It improved the performance of the aircraft significantly.
The latest model, the C130J is outfitted with the Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 turboprop engine coupled with a six-blade composite propeller. This engine design has delivered unprecedented performance compared to previous models.
Specifications Summary and Comparison
|Wing Area||3800 sq.ft||1,745 sq.ft|
|Maximum Takeoff Weight||585,000lb||155,000lb|
|Fuel Capacity||35,546 gallon||8,455 gallons|
Different models of the C17 and C130 have been developed over the years. The C17 has had fewer model variations than the C130.
C17 variants include:
- C17A. The initial version of the C17.
- C17A – ER. An upgrade of the 17A was incorporated in 2001. It had an additional center wing tank providing an extended range.
- C17B. A tactical airlifter version of the C17A with double-slotted flaps, additional main landing gear, more powerful engines, and systems for shorter take-off and landing distances. Boeing provided the U.S military with the C17B in 2007 as an aircraft for carrying Future Combat Systems and other equipment.
- MD-17. Proposed variation for civilian operation. It was later renamed the BC-17.
There are more than 40 variants of the C130 on the market, including civilian aircraft. While some had minor upgrades of the previous models, others were a total overhaul of certain parts. Below is a brief overview of the most common C130 aircraft.
- C-130A. The earliest model of the tactical airlifter.
- C-130B/E/F/G/H/K/T. Progressive upgrade of the C130A.
- C-130A-II. Incorporated the early version of the Electronic Intelligence/Signals Intelligence aircraft’s system.
- C-130J. Had newer engines, updated systems, and avionics.
- C-130B BLC. An upgrade of the C-130B that was fitted with a double Allison YT56 gas generator pod.
- C-130K. Designated C-13OJ for the Royal Air Force service.
- AC-130A/E/H/J/U/W. Gun shipping variants.
- C-130D/D-6. A ski-equipped version of the C130 for use specifically in snow and ice operations by the Air National Guard Department of the U.S Air Force.
- C-130E/H/J Hercules. Particularly designed for the Canadian Armed Forces.
- C-130M. An upgrade of the C-130H was specifically produced for the Brazilian Air Force.
- DC -130A/E/H. Used for drone control by the USAF.
- EC-130E/J/H/V. Used by the Air National Guard for psychological operations such as procedural air-to-ground attack control and airborne control and attacks.
- HC-130 B/E/H/P/N/J. Specific variants were used for different operations such as combat search and rescue, aerial refueling, and airlift.
- JC-130. Used for spying and drone recovery.
- KC 130F/R/T/J. Aerial refueling.
- TC-130. Aircrew training.
- VC-130H. Vip transport.
- WC-130A/B/E/H/J. Weather reconnaissance.
Generally, the C130 has had low accident incidents. According to a Royal Air Force investigation, the C130 recorded an accident rate of one aircraft per 250,000 flying hours over 40 hours.
On the other hand, the C17 has had more incidents of accidents. The first notable incident happened in September 1998 when one of the C17s suffered a landing gear failure when landing in Iceland. Although there were no significant injuries or fatalities, the landing gear sustained major damage.
In January 2009, a C17 made a gear landing at the Bagram Air Base. Upon investigation by the USAF Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, it was established that the landing error was a result of the crew’s failure to adhere to the landing protocol.
In July 2010, another C17 crashed at the Elmendorf Airforce Base in Alaska while practicing for the Arctic Thunder Air show. It killed all the four crew members that were on board. Post-crash investigations revealed that the aircraft had crashed due to a pilot error.
Two more pilot error incidents were reported in 2012. The first happened in January 2012 in the Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan. The pilot had miscalculated the stopping distance and crashed into some structures. There were no injuries or fatalities. The other happened in July 2021 when the pilot mistakenly landed at the Peter O. Knight Airport instead of the MacDill Airforce Base.
The most recent accident happened in April 2021 when a C17 caught fire in the undercarriage at the Charleston Air Force Base. Although the fire had begun spreading to the fuselage, it was extinguished in time without any injuries or fatalities.
Both the C17 and C130 are military transport aircraft. They were designed on request by the United States Air Force to meet the need for powerful strategic and tactical aircraft. The C17 has been around for longer and has numerous variants. The C17 is a newer type of tactical cargo aircraft with fewer variants.
The C17 is much bigger in terms of cargo space and size. It also offers superior performance with a higher cruise speed than the C130. Both land and take off across a short distance on both paved and unpaved runways.
The models are still operational in different parts of the world and continue to be upgraded to incorporate advancing technological features. Although more C17 accidents have been reported, they were mostly a result of pilot error.
A C-130 has a cargo compartment that is 9 feet high, 41 feet long and 10 feet 3 inches wide, with a max payload of 42,000 pounds. A C-17's cargo compartment is 12 feet 4 inches high, 88 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a max payload of 170,900 pounds.What military plane is bigger than the C-130? ›
The C-5M Super Galaxy is a strategic transport aircraft and is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory. Its primary mission is to transport cargo and personnel for the Department of Defense.Why is the C-130 so good? ›
The plane's versatile airframe made it useful in a variety of other roles, such as search and rescue, airborne assault, weather reconnaissance, aerial firefighting, and aerial refueling.Why the C-130 is such a badass plane? ›
Why the C-130 Hercules Is Such a Badass Plane Its the largest military transport in Nigeria's arsenal. With the ability to swallow light battle tanks and deposit them on anywhere in the region, the Hercules is an essential part of the Nigerian military's logistics system.Can C-17 be used as a bomber? ›
Air Mobility Command is testing how its workhorse strategic airlifter can not only carry in combat weapons systems, but also directly contribute to a fight by dropping bombs and providing targeting data for artillery.What plane replaced the C-130? ›
After 40 years of taking the C-130 Hercules into combat, the Air Force Reserve's 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base will become the main hub for training pilots to fly the new MH-139 Grey Wolf — a helicopter designed to patrol nuclear missile fields and evacuate government VIPs in national emergencies.What plane is replacing the C-17? ›
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
|C-17 Globemaster III|
|Primary users||United States Air Force Indian Air Force Royal Air Force See Operators for others|
Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a large aft ramp and door system that accommodates virtually all of the Army's air-transportable equipment such as a 69-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank, armored vehicles, trucks and trailers.What is the hardest military plane to fly? ›
Nearly twice as wide as it is long, the Lockheed U-2 spy plane is one of the most distinctive aircraft in the United States Air Force – and the hardest aircraft to fly, earning itself the nickname “The Dragon Lady”.Is there a toilet on AC-130? ›
Many Air Force planes already have private bathroom compartments, or partitioned spaces. The C-130 Hercules has a urinal and toilet tucked back in the cargo area of the plane, with a curtain airmen can close around them.
Iraq shot down one AC-130H gunship. It resulted in the loss of all 14 crewmembers, the largest single air power loss of the war. Post war restriction on Iraq required the presence of gunships to enforce them.Can AC-130 fly across the Atlantic? ›
Was it possible? Who would believe that the big, four-engine C-130 with its bulky fuselage and 132-foot wing span could land on the deck of a carrier? Not only was it possible, it was done in moderately rough seas 500 miles out in the North Atlantic off the coast of Boston.Can AC-130 fly upside down? ›
A transport aircraft such as the C-130 is usually not prepared to withstand the structural loads involved in an inverted flight maneuver.Which is bigger C 17 or C-130? ›
Size is the first difference between these two aircraft. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has a wingspan of 132 feet, while the C-17 Globemaster III has a wingspan of 169 feet. This means the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is larger than the Lockheed C-130 Hercules by almost 40 feet!What is the best gunship plane? ›
The AC-130J Ghostrider is set to be the most heavily-armed gunship in history, bristling with 30mm and 105mm cannons, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, and the ability to carry Hellfire missiles and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs.Why did Boeing Stop C-17? ›
As Boeing Defense, Space & Security President Dennis Muilenburg put it: “Our customers around the world face very tough budget environments. While the desire for the C-17's capabilities is high, budgets cannot support additional purchases in the timing required to keep the production line open…”How fast does a C-17 have to go to take off? ›
|Length:||174 feet (53.04 m)|
|160,000 pounds:||2,420 nautical miles|
|40,000 pounds:||5,610 nautical miles|
|Cruise Speed:||0.74 – 0.77 Mach|
|Takeoff Field Length (Max Gross Weight):||7,740 ft. (2,359.15 m)|
The average salary for a C-17 Pilot is $80,831 per year in United States, which is 7% lower than the average US Air Force salary of $87,816 per year for this job. What is the salary trajectory of a C-17 Pilot? The salary trajectory of a C-17 Pilot ranges between locations and employers.How many C 130s are still flying? ›
|Primary users||United States Air Force Royal Canadian Air Force United States Coast Guard Royal Air Force|
|Number built||Over 2,500 as of 2015|
While the beloved C-130 could have been called Griffin, the Hercules nickname stuck and is still being used 66 years later.
The Air Force claims 157 Globemasters in its inventory (the Air National Guard has 47, the Air Force Reserve, 18) so the flight represented a notable proportion of the nation's fleet. Two things made it possible - heavy work by all-hands in the Wing and the reliability of the C-17 itself.What is the nickname for the C-17? ›
It is named the “Globemaster”, but within its community, it is also affectionately known as “The Moose.” This nickname comes from the sound that is heard when the air is venting during refueling on the ground – it sounds like a moose bellowing.Why did the C-17 crash? ›
It blamed pilot error, stating that the pilot's overconfidence in executing an aggressive right-turn maneuver led to a low-altitude stall and subsequent crash, despite the warnings correctly provided by the aircraft's stall-warning system, to which neither the pilot nor any other crew member responded effectively.What plane will replace the F 35? ›
Aside from the option of buying more F-35Cs, the F/A-XX is seeking to create a new aircraft to replace the Super Hornet's capability and mission set. Just as the F-35C replaced aging F/A-18 Hornets and complement Super Hornets, the F/A-XX will replace aging Super Hornets in the 2030s and complement the F-35C.Can a C-17 carry a helicopter? ›
The C-17's highly flexible cargo bay easily holds two AH-64 Apache helicopters and deliver them to small austere runways as short as 3,500 feet.How many M1 Abrams can a C-130 carry? ›
Cargo can be accessed at both ends of the aircraft. It has a maximum payload capacity of 130 t. It can carry two M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, or 7-10 8x8 armored vehicles (Stryker or LAV-25), or 16 HMMWVs.How many c130s does the U.S. have? ›
To date, the Air Force has taken delivery of 121 C-130J aircraft from Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics Company. Active-duty locations for the C-130 and its variations are Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and Yokota AB, Japan.What is the most feared U.S. military aircraft? ›
The F-35 strengthens national security, enhances global partnerships and powers economic growth. As the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world, the F-35 gives pilots the critical advantage against any adversary, enabling them to execute their mission and come home safe.What is America's best military plane? ›
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is arguably the best fighter jet in the world.What is the best military plane ever made? ›
- F-16 Fighting Falcon (United States) ...
- MiG-21 fighter (Soviet Union) ...
- Tupolev Tu-95 bomber (Soviet Union/Russia) ...
- Bf 109 fighter (Germany) ...
- P-51 Mustang (United States) ...
- Dassault-Breguet Mirage (France) ...
- Mitsubishi Zero (Empire of Japan) ...
- A-10 Thunderbolt II (United States)
The Veteran explained that C-130E Hercules was an aircraft with four Allison T560A-15 turboprop engines, capable of generating upwards of 120 to 140 decibels of sound intensity.Does the AC-130 have guns on both sides? ›
All the guns are on the left side. The method of targeting is that the aircraft circles counterclockwise so that the left side is pointing downward. Thus all the guns can be brought to bear on the target (unlike an old frigate with guns on both sides) and the pilot can see the target as he circles.Can AC-130 takeoff from an aircraft carrier? ›
This is a big plane for a small runway. A KC-130F made history in 1963 by landing and taking off from the USS Forrestal. And they didn't just land once. The made 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 full stop landings, and 21 takeoffs.Has the US ever lost an AC-130? ›
C 130 Shootdown
On the 2nd of September 1958, Soviet MiG-17 pilots shot down a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance-configured C-130 aircraft over Soviet Armenia; 17 crewman were aboard. Below are the transcripts, reports, and audio files concerning the incident.
17 January 1993 – USAF F-16 vs. IRAF MiG-23 – A USAF F-16C shoots down a MiG-23 when the MiG locks the F-16 up.Can a F 16 land on an aircraft carrier? ›
There are several references to F-16 fighter jets, which are "returning to the Bartlett", (fictional US aircraft carrier USS Bartlett). However, F-16's are not carrier borne jets, so would not have the capability to land on an aircraft carrier.How far can AC-130 go without refueling? ›
The C-130E/H has a maximum range of 2,800 nautical miles, carrying no payload.Does Mexico have a AC-130? ›
Mexico, which already operates a mix of legacy C-130s, will have no difficulty absorbing these additional aircraft into its inventory.What does the C stand for in AC-130? ›
AC stands for attack cargo, which is one of the purposes of this combat aircraft. The main reason for the AC-130 is to gather close air support for other troops. An AC-130 Spectre from the 16th Special Operations Squadron flies a training mission Aug.How many G's can AC-130 pull? ›
Although it may not be anything compared to the 7.8 G-force the Blue Angels' pilots feel in the F/A-18 Hornets in which they perform, the 2.5 G's the passengers felt in the C-130 were enough for the woman sitting next to me to pull out her sick bag.
Probably not. Those two aircraft are not certified for an aerobatic maneuver. Neither are any commercial aircraft. There are basically two types of rolls—-aileron roll and barrel roll.What is the difference between a C-17 and C-130? ›
C-17 vs C-130: Payload
The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 172,000 pounds and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds. The C-130, which pushed the boundaries of massive aircraft in the 1950s, isn't able to hold as much.
The C-5M Super Galaxy is a strategic transport aircraft and is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory. Its primary mission is to transport cargo and personnel for the Department of Defense. The C-5M is a modernized version of the legacy C-5 designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin.Why does the C-130 have so many windows? ›
With a sweeping array of 23 cockpit windows allowing for clear visibility on steep approaches and high wings to operate from rough fields, the original C-130 Hercules was the antithesis of the sleek, speedy jets of its day.What is the best American aircraft? ›
The F-35A is America's most advanced multi-role fighter. It routinely demonstrates unmatched capabilities and combines stealth, advanced sensors, and information sharing systems. It is already proving itself in eastern Europe and will be the cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force's fighter fleet for decades to come.What is the coolest military plane? ›
- Battle for First: F-35 vs. F-22.
- #1: F-35 Lightning II.
- #2: The F-22 Raptor.
- China and Russia Lead the Remaining Top Five.
- #3: Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon”
- #4: Sukhoi Su-57.
- #5: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
- Speed and Weaponry Define the Runner-Ups.
The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily armed, long-endurance, ground-attack variant of the C-130 Hercules transport, fixed-wing aircraft.Is a C-17 bigger than AC-130? ›
Size is the first difference between these two aircraft. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has a wingspan of 132 feet, while the C-17 Globemaster III has a wingspan of 169 feet. This means the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is larger than the Lockheed C-130 Hercules by almost 40 feet!What does the C stand for in C-17? ›
Carbon-17 (C-17 or 17C), an isotope of carbon. C17, a 17-Carbon molecule in chlorophyll metabolism.Is there a Russian equivalent to the AC-130? ›
In military use, the An-12 has capacity for up to 100 fully equipped paratroopers or 20,000 kg (44,090 lb) of cargo, which is loaded through the rear loading ramp/door. In terms of configuration, size, and capability, the aircraft is similar to the United States-built Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
Since its inception in 1991, 279 Globemasters have been produced at the California facility, but lack of international demand for the plane has rendered keeping the plant open financially unfeasible.Can a C-17 carry an Abrams? ›
Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a large aft ramp and door system that accommodates virtually all of the Army's air-transportable equipment such as a 69-ton M1 Abrams main battle tank, armored vehicles, trucks and trailers.How many C-17 does the US have? ›
The Air Force claims 157 Globemasters in its inventory (the Air National Guard has 47, the Air Force Reserve, 18) so the flight represented a notable proportion of the nation's fleet. Two things made it possible - heavy work by all-hands in the Wing and the reliability of the C-17 itself.Why is the C-17 called the Moose? ›
It is named the “Globemaster”, but within its community, it is also affectionately known as “The Moose.” This nickname comes from the sound that is heard when the air is venting during refueling on the ground – it sounds like a moose bellowing.How many passengers can a C-17 carry? ›
The aircraft typically seats 102 passengers with centerline cargo seats and 138 passengers with seat pallets. The C-17 can carry 336 passengers when arranged into a humanitarian configuration where passengers are seated on the cargo floor with straps over their legs.How many tanks can a C-17 carry? ›
The aircraft is able to carry one Challenger 2 MBT, or a range of smaller armoured vehicles, or up to three WAH-64 Apache aircraft at one time. Over 150 troops can be carried.
C 130 Shootdown
On the 2nd of September 1958, Soviet MiG-17 pilots shot down a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance-configured C-130 aircraft over Soviet Armenia; 17 crewman were aboard.
The U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps C/KC-130 program consists of three variants of a medium-sized transport aircraft capable of intra-theater and inter-theater airlift operations.How reliable is the C-17? ›
The C-17 is also known for its reliability, which has an aircraft mission completion success probability rate of over 92 percent.How far can a C-17 fly without refueling? ›
With a payload of 164,900 pounds, the C-17 can take off from a 7,000-foot airfield, fly 2,400 nautical miles, and land on a small, austere airfield of 3,000 feet or less.
The C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft is one of the few modern aircraft that uses reverse thrust in flight.