This HC-130J Combat King II Took Off From Unpaved Strip, Because It Can and Doesn’t Mind

There are in this world military aircraft meant to perform their duties in the air, and there are others that for whatever reason have to land to do that. And given how warfare is the name of the game, a perfectly straight runway on which transport winged beasts can land is at times be an unavailable luxury.
HC-130J Combat King II 6 photos
Photo: USAF/Alejandro Peña
HC-130J Combat King IIHC-130J Combat King IIHC-130J Combat King IIHC-130J Combat King IIHC-130J Combat King II
For decades, planes, especially military ones, have been designed with the ability to land and take off in imperfect conditions. Take the HC-130J Combat King II pictured here as it takes off from the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson base in Alaska.

Or, should we say, some remote area of that base because, as serene as this pic may seem, with the aircraft rising over a field of green and orange, the moments before the photo was taken must have been anything but.

The Combat King is seen taking to the sky after taxiing on “an unpaved landing strip at Malemute Drop Zone” at the said base. It did so not on account of some emergency, but as part of a readiness exercise meant to teach members of the Alaska Air National Guard the hows and whys of operating “in austere locations with unfinished or shorter runways.”

We are not being given the specifics of the runway, such as how long it was or the shape it was in, and we have no idea how heavy the plane was when departing - for reference, this variant of the C-130 can take to the sky weighing 164,000 pounds (74,389 kilograms).

The HC-130J is the Air Force variant of the Lockheed HC-130 that was born all the way back in the late 1950s. It’s primary function is to act as a fixed-wing recovery platform, meaning that, by design, it has to get itself in not-so-pleasant places.

Four Rolls Royce turboprop engines provide a total of over 18,000 shaft horsepower to take the plane to speeds of 364 mph (586 kph) and to an altitude of 33,000 feet (10,000 meters). The plane is generally not armed, except for the countermeasures it packs.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other HC-130J Combat King IIs.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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