The modern battlefield requires the commander to put or move around his forces quickly in the battlefield. The mechanized nature of warfare requires airlifting capabilities and in many cases they have proven to be the only lifeline in battle.
1. C-130 Hercules
The four-engine turboprop aircraft is one of the few planes to remain in continuous production for more than 50 years with more than 2,300 aircrafts produced. Introduced into service in 1957, it has proved to be versatile and adaptable in various special roles. It can carry 20 tons of cargo within a range of 3,800 km and land in roughly levelled airstrips.
2. Douglas C-47
Simply known as ‘Dakota’, more than 10,000 of them were produced since 1935. It was used in special roles such as dropping agents in Occupied France, flying ‘The Hump’ from India to China and the airborne invasions in Normandy and Holland. It was also used extensively in the ‘Berlin Airlift’.
The German workhorse was the equivalent of the Allied C-47 during the war. Its tri-motor engines and corrugated metal skin, gave it some durability. But it lacked the capacity. It hauled supplies troops in all the campaigns including the invasion of Crete. It was the primary carrier for the airborne troops.
4. Ilyushin IL-76
Introduced in 1974, it was supposed to become the mainstay of the Soviet airlifting capability. It could operate in harsh climates and from rough airstrips. It was the Soviet Hercules. It had a maximum payload of 47 tons with a range of 4,400 km. around 900 of them were built. It has been used as an AWAC platform with the designation of A-50 Shmel.
5. C-5 Galaxy
It is the prime US Strategic airlifter with a maximum payload of 120 tons over long distances. Introduced in 1970, over 130 were built. A $2billion overhaul was carried out in the 80’s to increase its capabilities. It has a larger cargo compartment than the Starlifter and is capable of carrying bulky cargoes such as three CH-46 helicopters. But it is plagued with high maintenance and fuel requirements.