USA USMC final KC 130T 640Last USMC KC-130T

On 14 April 2021, the very last US Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130Ts, BuNo 164105 assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452 Yankees, was phased out and handed over to the US Navy’s Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 55. The ceremony was only announced by Naval Air Systems Command on 5 May 2021.

The USMC is now fully transitioned from the KC-130T to the KC-130J Super Hercules after having flown the ‘legacy’ Hercules for six decades. The KC-130T, a derivative of the US Air Force’s C-130H, had originally been introduced to the USMC service in the early 1980s and was operated exclusively by the reserve squadrons.

When the latest USMC Aviation Plan was released in 2019, the service still had twelve KC-130Ts assigned to VMGR-452, as well as three active-duty squadrons with fifteen KC-130Js each, and one reserve squadron with seven KC-130Js. For the future, the plan defined fifteen KC-130Js for each active-component VMGR, and for the reserve squadrons.

The Tango flew missions that included combat assault transport, air delivery, air-to-air refueling of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tiltrotor aircraft, ground refueling, battlefield illumination, and operations from expeditionary airfields. The force took the aircraft to war in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.

USA USMC KC 130T Dan Stijovich 640The USMC flew the Tango in two different versions, 24 baseline KC-130Ts and two KC-130T-30 models with a 15-foot stretched fuselage. The two 30s were operated by VMGR-452 before their refueling equipment was removed and they were transferred to the Navy in the early 2010s. Currently, the US Navy operates a fleet of around thirty KC-130T and C-130Ts, the latter with the aerial refueling capability deleted. The US Navy is planning to phase out the type too and hopes to standardize its fleet to the KC-130J too.

The much-improved KC-130J was introduced in 2001. The Juliet comes with improved performance and provides the Corps besides the above mentioned missions some additional functions too, like close air support and reconnaissance with the Harvest HAWK system, a roll-on/roll-off armament package, as well as airborne command and control, and electronic warfare. The Juliet can also be equipped with the M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as part of ‘shoot and scoot’ precision rocket artillery ‘raids,’ where a Hercules lands at a forward location and offloads the launcher vehicle, which then carries out a fire support mission.

In March 2021, the USMC received their sixtieth KC-130J. This leaves another 26 aircraft to be delivered over the next five years, completing an order book for 86 examples.

Photo by USMC and Dan Stijovich via

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