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By Col David Mobley Deputy Commander, 1st Special Operations Group


On 29 March, 2011, Lockheed-Martin rolled out the first


four of (hopefully) 37 total MC-130J Combat Shadow IIs for AFSOC. The first one took to the skies on its maiden flight on April 20th, 2011. Lockheed will deliver the first one to the command in September 2011. These airplanes will replace 23 MC-130Ps and 14 MC-130Es being retired from service. On first glance, many will think the new MC-130J Combat Shadow II is simply a new version of the same 45+ year-old MC-130P Combat Shadow. But it won’t take long to convince Airmen and “old timer” Herk crews that the MC-130J is a definitive leap forward in SOF MC-130 aviation.


A Proud Lineage:


The MC-130P Combat Shadow The first two decades of the MC-130P’s 45+ years of


history were quite different than the most recent 23 years. Lockheed delivered the Air Force a fleet of about 100 HC-130 “King” search and rescue aircraft between 1964 and 1969. Its improved Allison T56-A-15 engines gave the HC-130 bet- ter high altitude/hot weather performance than similar-year C-130Es with Allison T56-A-7 engines. These new HC-130s were built to take on the busy mission of Combat Rescue in


30 │ AIR COMMANDO JOURNAL │ Fall 2011


Vietnam. Initially, they were to use the Radio Directional Tracker located in the tracker radome (aka, “the piano bar”) on top of the aircraft to find emergency locator beacons of downed aircrew. But in 1965, Harry Dunn and Don Eastman were proving that a CH-3 could refuel behind a C-130 using helicopter air refueling (HAR) pods. In June, 1967, Wright- Patterson AFB proved that the HH-53 could also refuel behind the Herk. HC-130s refueled Jolly Green HH-3/53 helicopters rescuing downed aircrews throughout most of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Combat Rescue in Vietnam was a gallant mis- sion with no shortage of heroic action. In the post-Vietnam 1970s, HC-130s continued to serve


with distinction in peacetime search and rescue roles, but with few weapon system changes. Nevertheless, rescue HC-130 crews racked up thousands of civilian and military saves/ assists alongside their Jolly Green counterparts. The late 1970s were somewhat stagnant for the Air Force and the HC-130. The glaring result of this came to light during the rehearsals and attempt to rescue the Americans held hostage by Iranian extremists. In April, 1980, America found out the hard way that deploying a large contingent of helicopters over long dis- tances, using C-130 support and refueling, cannot be an ad hoc endeavor. To be successful, crews have to train regularly as


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