Hercules Air-to-Air Refuelling 1982
Widawake Airfield Ascension Island
The 8000 mile trip to Stanley
Operations in the South Atlantic
Wiltshire's skies have been synonymous with the C130 Hercules
flying twenty- four hours a day, way back to the day the
first aircraft arrived here in November 1967. Since that
Albert' as the Hercules is affectionately known, has been
involved in nearly every major conflict all over the world,
sending troops and valuable equipment to the four corners
of the globe. One significant event in world history and
indeed the history of RAF Lyneham, was the rapid deployment
of equipment to the South Atlantic to
of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
We look back at the demands
and role the mighty Hercules under took during the Falklands
Campaign and the aircraft was converted to different roles
to meet the priority tasking to support the re-supply and
air-to-air refuelling missions, including the delta-shaped
Avro Vulcan's longest bombing mission ever, the 'Black Buck'
Operation 8000 miles from home.
Question: How do you make a Lockheed Hercules,
with a representative-payload range of 2,500 nautical miles
km), fly from Ascension
Island to the Falklands and back, a distance of some 6,800
nautical miles (12 600 km), without landing?
fit long-range fuel tanks and make provision for in-flight
The solution to the problem sounds deceptively simple. In
practice, there were numerous technical and operational problems
to be overcome before RAF Hercules began flying 24/26 hour
missions over the South Atlantic as routine in the later
stages of the Falklands conflict - problems that could be
only dimly foreseen when No 38 Group, with its four Hercules
squadrons at Lyneham, was first alerted to the need to support
Task Force 317.
The requirement to fly missions beyond the
normal range of the Hercules was not immediately apparent
when the Lyneham squadrons were directed to provide, at short
notice, for the movement of stores and personnel between
the UK and Ascension Island. Thus, in the words of the Station
Commander, Group Captain Clive Evans the first request was
simply for "a small number of aircraft" to move
In this early phase of the operation, the Transport Wing
at Lyneham. - with the appropriate motto "Support, Save,
Supply" incorporated in the official station crest -
was able to follow well established routines, such as had
previously been used when the RAF has been called upon for
earthquake or disaster relief, or during military exercises.
The airfield of Wideawake on Ascension Island was already
quite well known to the Hercules crews, having been used
on training missions that required precise long-range navigation
with the minimum of aids. The route was normally flown via
Dakar, in West Africa, in each direction with an additional
stop at Gibraltar southbound dictated by the prevailing headwinds.
The first "Corporate" Hercules departed down this
route on 3rd April 1982, less than 24 hrs after the Argentine
invasion of the Falklands, carrying, in addition to supplies,
a six-man team from the UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron
(UKMAMS). The initial task of this team was to be to establish
an airhead at Wideawake and "to offload up to 13 Hercules” carrying
stores that would be required in due course by the Task Force.
In fact, within three weeks of its arrival, this team would
handle no fewer than 163 aircraft carrying some 3,250,000
lb (11474200 kg) of freight - and even that was only the