'Fat Albert' is now nearly 50 years old - and it is small wonder that.
Hercules ...It is a nickname that local people use with some affection when talking of the C-130 Lockheed Hercules, a common sight in the skies over Swindon from their base at RAF Lyneham for nearly 50 years. Even though a day hardly seemed to go by without at least one Fat Albert swooping over the town, there are probably more of them than you might think.
RAF Lyneham was home to no less than 61 of them at one point - which is almost all of the Fat Alberts flying RAF colours - and the base was until 2011 operational for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
Since 2001 they have seen active service in the Gulf, where they have been invaluable in transporting troops and equipment to and from Afganistan and Iraq. Most unfortunately too often flying home victims of the conflict.
50 year anniversary
It's hard to believe, the first Fat Albert rolled off the production line in 1955 and are still the world's most popular transport aircraft. Their appeal lying in their tremendous versatility. The USAF has highly effective gunship versions called Spectres and if you replace a Fat Albert's undercarriage wheels with skis he will gladly land on ice in Antartica. But Fat Albert has earned himself and the RAF as much respect for work during peacetime as for military roles. He has proved a welcome sight for many Third World countries as he flies in to drop aid - and will surely always remain a welcome sight in the skies above Swindon, too.
Fat Alberts are 97ft (29m) long, but their wingspan is even greater - 132 feet (40m). They stand 38ft (11m) high. RAF Lyneham covers 2,500 acres and has 3.5 miles of runways.
Fat Alberts can carry over 17.6 tonnes (38,900lbs) of freight, or 17 cargo pallets, or 4 vehicles and trailers, or 128 troops, or 92 paratroops, or 97 stretcher cases. There are 690 operational buildings at RAF Lyneham and 1,000 married quarters.
Fat Alberts have a maximum cruising speed of 374mph (602kph).
RAF Lyneham uses 12 million gallons of aviation fuel a year.
Fat Alberts have a range of 2,356 miles (3,791km) with a maximum payload and have a ceiling of 42,900ft (13km). An average of 38 sorties are flown from RAF Lyneham in a typical day.
Fat Alberts carry around 150,000 passengers a year.
RAF Lyneham once had over 3,000 service and civilian personnel.
16 Air Assault Brigade was formed on 01 September 1999 following the Strategic Defence Review. It was born of an amalgamation of elements of 5 Airborne Brigade and 24 Airmobile Brigade, bringing together the agility and reach of airborne forces with the potency of the attack helicopter.
The Brigade's name is derived from 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions, which saw distinguished service during the Second World War. 16 Air Assault Brigade's 'Striking Eagle' badge was adopted from the Special Training Centre in Lochailot, Scotland, where Special Forces and Airborne troops were trained between 1943 and 1945.
The maroon and light blue colours of the badge represent the airborne and aviation elements of the Brigade respectively.
As the British Army's premier rapid response formation, 16 Air Assault Brigade has served in the vanguard of recent operational deployments to Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
With 8,000 personnel, 16 Air Assault Brigade is the largest Brigade in the British Army. Its structure makes it highly flexible and capable. The Units, listed below, provide Air Assault Infantry, Parachute Battalions, Signals, Pathfinders, Attack and Utility Aviation, Artillery, Engineers, Armoured Recce, Logistic and Equipment Support, Medical and Provost capabilities.
In combination with Offensive Air Support, Air Transport and Support Helicopters, the Brigade is a light, adaptable and potent force, packing a heavy punch wherever required around the world. It remains at high readiness as the UK's Airborne Task Force.
Op HERRICK 13
The Brigade has recently returned from its deployment on Operation HERRICK 13 in Afghanistan (Oct 2010-Apr 2011), where it was the lead formation in command of Task Force Helmand, in Lashkar Gah. It has now handed over control to 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, supported by units of 7th Armoured Brigade.
Based in Colchester, Essex, the Brigade Headquarters is formed from both Army and RAF personnel enabling it to integrate Air and Land operations. 16 Air Assault Brigade is the only Operational Brigade in the British Army capable of delivering Air Manoeuvre, Air Assault and Airborne operations.
Units and elements of 16 AIR ASSAULT BRIGADE: