C-123 vs. C-130

What's the Difference?

The C-123 and C-130 are both military transport aircraft that have played significant roles in various operations. The C-123, also known as the Provider, was developed in the 1950s and was primarily used by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. It had a shorter range and payload capacity compared to the C-130. On the other hand, the C-130, also known as the Hercules, was introduced in the 1950s and has been widely used by many countries around the world. It is known for its impressive range, payload capacity, and versatility, making it suitable for various missions such as cargo transport, aerial refueling, and humanitarian aid. Overall, while the C-123 had its significance during its time, the C-130 has emerged as a more capable and versatile aircraft, continuing to serve various military and civilian purposes to this day.


ManufacturerFairchildLockheed Martin
RoleTactical transport aircraftTactical airlift aircraft
First FlightOctober 14, 1949August 23, 1954
Primary UsersUnited States Air Force, South Vietnamese Air Force, othersUnited States Air Force, many others
Number Built3072,500+
Unit Cost$1.2 million (approx.)$30 million (approx.)
Max Speed216 knots (249 mph, 400 km/h)366 knots (421 mph, 680 km/h)
Range1,100 nautical miles (1,270 mi, 2,040 km)2,050 nautical miles (2,360 mi, 3,800 km)
Wingspan100 ft 7 in (30.66 m)132 ft 7 in (40.41 m)

Further Detail


The C-123 and C-130 are both military transport aircraft that have played significant roles in various operations around the world. While they share similarities in their purpose, there are distinct differences in their attributes that make each aircraft unique. In this article, we will explore and compare the key features of the C-123 and C-130, highlighting their performance, capabilities, and design.


When it comes to performance, the C-130 has a clear advantage over the C-123. The C-130 is powered by four turboprop engines, providing it with exceptional power and range. With a maximum speed of around 415 knots and a range of over 2,000 nautical miles, the C-130 can swiftly transport troops, cargo, or equipment over long distances. On the other hand, the C-123, equipped with two piston engines, has a maximum speed of approximately 216 knots and a range of around 1,200 nautical miles. While the C-123 is still capable of fulfilling its transport duties, its performance falls short compared to the C-130.


Both the C-123 and C-130 have impressive capabilities, but they differ in certain aspects. The C-123, also known as the Provider, was primarily designed for tactical airlift and aerial delivery missions. Its rear-loading ramp and large cargo compartment allowed for efficient loading and unloading of troops, supplies, and equipment. Additionally, the C-123 could be modified for medical evacuation, electronic warfare, or even as a gunship, showcasing its versatility.

On the other hand, the C-130, commonly referred to as the Hercules, has a broader range of capabilities. In addition to tactical airlift and aerial delivery, the C-130 can perform aerial refueling, search and rescue operations, and even function as an airborne command post. Its ability to operate from unprepared runways and its short takeoff and landing capabilities make it suitable for various missions in diverse environments. The C-130 can also be equipped with advanced avionics and defensive systems, enhancing its survivability in hostile situations.


When it comes to design, the C-123 and C-130 have distinct characteristics. The C-123 features a high-wing configuration, with the engines mounted on the wings. Its twin tail design provides stability and control during flight. The aircraft's cargo compartment is accessible through a large rear-loading ramp, allowing for efficient loading and unloading of cargo. The C-123's design emphasizes simplicity and ruggedness, making it suitable for operations in austere environments.

In contrast, the C-130 has a more modern and sleek design. It also features a high-wing configuration, but its engines are mounted on pylons above the wings. The C-130's T-tail design enhances its stability and allows for better performance during low-level operations. The aircraft's cargo compartment is accessible through a rear-loading ramp, similar to the C-123, but the C-130 also has the ability to airdrop cargo and personnel through its rear cargo door. The C-130's design incorporates advanced materials and technologies, resulting in improved fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance requirements.


In conclusion, while both the C-123 and C-130 are military transport aircraft, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. The C-130 outperforms the C-123 in terms of speed and range, making it more suitable for long-distance transport. Additionally, the C-130's broader range of capabilities, including aerial refueling and search and rescue operations, make it a versatile aircraft for various missions. On the other hand, the C-123's simplicity, ruggedness, and ability to be modified for different roles showcase its adaptability in tactical airlift and specialized missions.

Ultimately, the choice between the C-123 and C-130 depends on the specific requirements of the mission at hand. Both aircraft have proven their worth in numerous operations, and their attributes continue to make them valuable assets in military aviation.

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