Which manufacturers and aircraft entered the U.S. government design competition back in the 1950s in which the Lockheed C-130 was selected? Were they all clean sheet designs, modified versions of current aircraft, or unmodified aircraft already in service? Is there any documented history which states justifications for the Lockheed design?

  • $\begingroup$ By "justification" do you mean "why Lockheed won" or something else? $\endgroup$ May 11, 2017 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ So whenever the DoD selects the winner of an aircraft design competition, they provide a document which outlines the justifications for the decision. The F-35 decision, for example provided that while the Boeing article demonstrated the capabilities of vertical take-off /landing as well as Super Cruise operations, the aircraft could not do both without first being reconfigured. There were a few other key justifications with that were cited as well, not to mention that the Boeing version looked absolutely ugly, like UGLY ugly. If you're gonna be ugly, you better be an A-10! Beautiful ugly! $\endgroup$
    – BigNutz
    May 11, 2017 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


The competing companies (ones that elected to compete anyway, more were invited) were Lockheed with two submitted designs, Boeing with one design, Chase Aircraft with three designs, Douglas with three designs and Airlifts Inc with one design. As far as I can tell, these were just designs and Lockheed won the contest based entirely on paper. The YC-130 was ordered and after performance was verified, it went into production in 1954.

It doesn't look like there is any public information on the competing designs since they didn't leave the drawing board. It is unlikely that any of them are "clean sheet" designs. The Boeing submission was probably (and this is a personal guess) based on the C-97 Stratofreighter. The C-130 itself looks to be an up-scaled version of the Fairchild C-123 Provider with design elements from the Chase XCG-20 (which was developed into the C-123).

I'm not sure what you mean by "justifications for the Lockheed design". Given that it is the United States military's most successful aircraft design ever, with 60 years of continuous service, I'm sure every design was driven by a contract or performance requirement. Here is a good article about the C-130 designer, Willis Hawkins that gives some insight into the project.

Most of this information was taken from the Wikipedia page on the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

  • $\begingroup$ So yeah, "justifications" was meant exactly as you said, however not meant to imply malice. I absolutely love the C-130 design and celebrate the fact that it's design was so wrk thought out that it's effectiveness has persisted for so long, and will continue to for decades. I really enjoy learning about the histories surrounding USG, and especially DoD aircraft design competitions and decisions. I absolutely love that we have a number of airframes that were so well designed that they are still being used effectively in the US military, albeit with appropriate modernization upgrades, simply $\endgroup$
    – BigNutz
    May 11, 2017 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ Because one cannot design an aircraft that would be better. I submit as additional examples the A-10, B-52, UH-60, AH-6, etc. I find it especially interesting when you contrast those historic processes with more recent examples, such as with the F-35 and the LRB planned B-2 replacement. Today the UH-60 is 3 years from its 40th birthday. When you consider that when it was introduced as a replacement of the UH-1 Iroquois (Huey), the Huey was only a20 year old design. The Blackhawk is still being produced new with existing aircraft being upgraded, modernized, and modified and another 30 years! $\endgroup$
    – BigNutz
    May 11, 2017 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ I tried to search for the General Operating Requirement for the C-130 (basically the design spec) but couldn't find one. Allegedly it was only a 30 page document but very well written in that once the Lockheed design was chosen very few changes had to be done, mostly with layout of controls. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    May 11, 2017 at 23:26

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