Hercules and Saudi Arabia: A historic partnership

Photo shows the first C-130 aircraft delivered in Saudi Arabia in 1965 . (File photo/Supplied )
Updated 15 March 2019

Hercules and Saudi Arabia: A historic partnership

  • The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) relies on the C-130 to support a myriad of tactical airlift requirements
  • At its peak, the Kingdom’s Hercules fleet was made up of 65 aircraft

RIYADH: The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft has long been known as the world’s workhorse, toiling away for 70 nations around the globe, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) relies on the C-130 to support a myriad of tactical airlift requirements, from regional peacekeeping exercises to delivering much-needed resources to countries and communities afflicted by natural disasters. Saudi Arabia’s C-130s are national assets that have long functioned as global resources. 

“The Kingdom is home to the largest C-130 fleet outside of the United States. Our presence in the Kingdom goes back to 1965 when we delivered the first C-130 aircraft. Since then, our relationship has strengthened into a long-term relationship based on innovation, technology, security and active participation toward the realization of Saudi Vision 2030,” said Joseph Rank, chief executive, Lockheed Martin Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has an active fleet of Hercules aircraft variations, including 52 C-130H/KC-130/L-100. At its peak, the Kingdom’s Hercules fleet was made up of 65 aircraft. 

The Kingdom expanded its presence as a leader in the worldwide Hercules community in 2013 when it chose the C-130J Super Hercules with its initial acquisition of two KC-130J aerial refuelers. 

The KC-130J is a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules, the current and most advanced C-130 production model. To date, 20 nations around the world operate or plan to operate Super Hercules aircraft.



The C-130J represents a complete reinvention of the legacy Hercules. Advanced avionics, two head-up displays, reduced crew requirements, automated maintenance systems, upgraded engines and Dowty six-bladed propellers help the C-130J go further and faster than older models. 

The KC-130J operates as a tactical transport or tanker, with the ability to refuel fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. 

The KC-130J also has the capability to conduct rapid ground refueling operations. The KC-130J can also be used for airland and airdrop delivery of combat troops, personnel and cargo. 

“The RSAF’s KC-130Js make a strong Hercules fleet even stronger and more dynamic. The KC-130J is a proven platform that is defined by its power, versatility and unmatched capabilities. It’s a natural addition to the RSAF’s fleet and we are proud that the RSAF crews use the KC-130J to support critical and vital transport and tanker requirements,” said Christopher Antone, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Vice President for Strategic Pursuits and Business Development – Saudi Arabia.

Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

Updated 4 min 41 sec ago

Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia are inaugurating a new era of Arab space exploration
  • Saudi Prince Sultan entered the history books when he journeyed into space on Discovery in 1985

RIYADH: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before schools were due to start after summer vacation. 

Fifty years ago today, Saudis joined the world in gathering around TV sets to watch a live broadcast of what was once thought impossible: American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon. 

Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” True to his words, advancement in space has skyrocketed since the Apollo 11 mission, opening up doors for space scientists to reach for the stars.

It was only 16 years later that Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab, Muslim — and royal — astronaut to travel into space. Before traveling to Houston for the Apollo mission anniversary, he sat down with Arab News in an exclusive interview to talk about his NASA mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in June 1985.

Prince Sultan, recently appointed chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, was only 13 when he watched the historic moon landing on TV. The picture quality might have been poor and the sound garbled, but footage of the landing captured his imagination.

“Humans made airplanes and made advances in industry, but for humans to leave their own planet, that’s really something else,” Prince Sultan told Arab News. 

Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old. “It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

It has been more than 30 years since space last had an Arab visitor (Syria’s Muhammed Faris became the second Arab in space on board USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987). But this September, the first Emirati will become the latest Arab visitor when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).

Hazza Al-Mansoori will travel to space on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft that is due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.