The Hercules: A Flagship Aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

When we think of military aircraft, a machine that inevitably comes to mind is the mighty Hercules! This leviathan of the skies is highly versatile and essential for many missions at home and abroad.

A Little History

The aircraft was designed in the early 1950s by the United States, which decided to modernize its air fleet after the end of the Berlin Blockade and before the start of the Korean War. For example, the country needed an assault aircraft that could carry 64 paratroopers, take off on unprepared runways, and fly with one engine off. The United States government turned its attention to the Lockheed prototype, which had its first flight in 1954 and was officially commissioned in 1956.

Since its introduction, the plane has had remarkable success! Canada received its first Hercules in 1960 and today, the aircraft is operated in nearly fifty countries.

Applications of the Hercules

The Hercules is above all a military transport aircraft. With its incredible size, it can deliver all sorts of merchandise, from tanks and aircraft to equipment for the Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut. For many years, the only way for soldiers to make their way to Alert for their jobs was on board the Hercules! In addition to transporting cargo, the Hercules can carry dozens of soldiers at a time.

The Hercules is also used for search and rescue and aerial refuelling missions. For many people in distress around the world, the distinctive sound of an approaching Hercules plane is a true relief.

Canadian Forces Station Alert

At 2,388 km from Yellowknife, this station is the northernmost inhabited place on Earth. It has a Canadian military base and a station of the Meteorological Service of Canada. It opened in the early 1950s as a weather station. In 1958, it also became a signals intelligence unit.

Today, you can find Canadian Armed Forces personnel, Department of National Defence staff, Environment and Climate Change Canada employees, and also contract employees working there year-round.

Photo: US Mission Canada – Ambassador Jacobson in Alert, Nunavut

 

Design

The plane’s design makes it extremely versatile, as a large door and a ramp at the back make it easier to load and unload bulky materials. Deliveries can also be parachuted down to the ground if the plane has nowhere to land.

A New Model

A new Airbus called the CC-295 will join the Canadian fleet in the next few years. Its arrival will mark the end the Hercules’ amazing history with the RCAF. However, Canadians will still get to admire the aircraft, as it will continue to fly across the country for years to come.

Mike Reyno for Skies Mag