November 3, 2011:
Argentina is refurbishing its five C-130H transports, upgrading and standardizing most of the equipment on the aircraft. Structural repairs will be made as needed. The purpose is to make the aircraft capable of serving another 25 years, as well as making all of them capable of flights to research stations in Antarctica. Most of the Argentinian C-130Hs already have that many years on them. But based on actual experience, it's reasonable to expect a well maintained C-130 to last 40-50 years. For example, since 2009, two U.S. Air Force C-130Es have retired after 47 years of service and over 30,000 hours in the air. These aircraft were but two of dozens of similar aircraft being pulled out of service, even though they have a few thousand hours left in them. These C-130s had undergone six or more refurbishments since they entered service in the 1960s. But these aircraft require more maintenance because of their age, which makes them more expensive to operate, and less available for service than newer models.
On average, C-130s last about 25 years, and about 20,000 hours in the air. But averages are just that, and some aircraft get lucky. If an aircraft has relatively few, "high stress" (heavy load, rough weather) flights, it will fly longer. The key component in C-130 longevity is the center wing box. This component takes the most punishment, and if it suffers corrosion, as well as enough stress to cause metal fatigue, it usually means the useful life of the aircraft is much shorter.
The C-130 has been in service 52 years. So far, nearly 2,300 have been built, and it is still in production. Most C-130s built are still in use, although that will change in the next decade as the large number built in the 1960s and early 70s retire. The most common four-engine military transport on the planet is the C-130. The most common version is the C-130H. It has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The C-130 is used by more than 50 countries.