War, especially the comfy American way of war, takes stuff. Lots and lots of stuff: 100 million square feet of seaborne dry cargo for Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Military Sealift Command. Once the stuff reaches a port, say in Kuwait, it gets hauled to the troops by mile-long ground convoys or in C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport planes. The ground convoys in Iraq got mauled pretty bad in 2004 and ’05, so the Air Force has been hauling a growing proportion of the supplies, keeping logistics troops off the roads and saving perhaps hundreds of lives.
The brand-new Globies (true political hot potatoes) have been a huge help, but the workhorses for these aerial cargo runs are the old-school C-130s, many of which were built when John F. Kennedy was president. These things are ancient, and a huge programs to upgrade or replace them keep running into trouble. There’s a new Herk model, the J, that some love and many hate, but even these are available only in small numbers. For now and for years to come, the vital job of schlepping bullets, spare parts and pudding cups to the ground troops goes to your daddy’s classic Hercules, the old, ugly trash-hauler that could.