YMC-130H Lockheed Hercules Story – Operation Credible Sport
YMC-130H were three modified Lockheed Hercules Aircraft for Top Secret “Operation Credible Sport”, for second Iran hostage crisis rescue attempt.
One of the measures considered for a second hostage rescue attempt in Iran was a project to develop a “Super STOL” aircraft, to be flown by Combat Talon crews, that would use a soccer stadium near the US Embassy as an improvised landing field. Called Credible Sport, the project acquired three C-130H transports from an airlift unit in late August 1980, one as a test bed and two for the mission, and modified them on an accelerated basis.
Designated as the XFC-130H, the aircraft were modified by the installation of 30 rockets in five sets: eight firing forward to stop the aircraft, eight downward to brake its descent rate, eight rearward for takeoff assist, four mounted on the wings to stabilize them during takeoff transition, and two at the rear of the tail to prevent it from striking the ground because of over-rotation. Other STOL features included a dorsal and two ventral fins on the rear fuselage, double-slotted flaps and extended ailerons, a new radome, a tail-hook for landing aboard an aircraft carrier, and Combat Talon avionics, including a TF/TA radar, a defensive countermeasures suite, and a Doppler radar/GPS tie-in to the aircraft’s inertial navigation system.
Of the three aircraft, only one received full modification. The program abruptly ended when it crashed during testing on October 29, 1980, and international events soon after rendered another rescue attempt moot.
The flight engineer, blinded by the firing of the upper deceleration rockets, thought the aircraft was on the runway and fired the lower set early. The descent-braking rockets didn’t fire at all. Later unofficial disclaimers allegedly made by some of the Lockheed test crew’s members asserted that the lower rockets fired themselves through an undetermined computer or electrical malfunction, which at the same time failed to fire the descent-braking rockets.
As a result, the aircraft’s forward flight was immediately reduced to nearly zero, dropping it hard to the runway and breaking the starboard wing between the third and fourth engines. During roll-out, the trailing wing ignited a fire, but a medical evacuation helicopter dispersed the flame and crash response teams extinguished the fire within eight seconds of the aircraft stopping, enabling the crew to exit the aircraft safely. This YMC-130H was dismantled and buried on-site for security reasons, but most of its unique systems were salvaged.