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map, FLIR imagery, or to alter autopilot, emergency procedure and communication settings. If desired, even the throttles are automatic through the autopilot. This level of automation for the “slick” C-130J may, arguably, have been enough to over- come challenges normally handled by the FE and Navigator (“slick” C-130J crews typically fly with an extra pilot during Joint Precision Air Drop System operations). However, spe- cial operations missions call for high workloads and greater en route flexibility. Mission changes and added equipment are commonplace on SOF aircraft, so the MC-130J retained one critical crew position; the Combat Systems Operator or CSO (yes, formerly, the “Nav”). Noticeable on the MC-130J flight deck are two seats at

the former Navigator’s, now the Combat Systems Operator’s (CSO) panel. Only the left side has instrumentation. It is indeed a CSO requirement because the CSO will perform the functions of Nav, EWO, FE, and Radio Operator. As a Nav, he or she will work en route NVG low-level radar scope inter- pretation, terrain avoidance, mission plans, route changes, and incorporate unique MC-130J equipment like the Raytheon MTS-A Forward Looking Infrared system. As EWO, the CSO will coordinate with the pilots on threat warnings, work coun- termeasures, and re-route the mission while allowing them to remain heads-up. As a part-time FE, the CSO will manage fuel and, most uniquely, transfer fuel on-loads from KC-135/ KC-10 tankers and off-loads to CV-22s and helicopters. Finally, the CSO will work much of the communications with ground forces and Command and Control (C2). In AFSOC, we’ve had some legendary Radio Operators who taught a few aircrews what good comm is all about. Like the FEs, we hope that AFSOC can retain these skilled aviators in other special operations roles. This is another case where a smaller, smarter aircrew is going to have to adapt, overcome, and rely on tech- nology to free them up for other duties. The unpopulated second CSO seat is ideal for airborne

mission commanders, added operational aircrew, or other C2 personnel. It could also be an accommodation for future base- line needs; think MC-130x “Talon 3” or AC-130J replacement

Length Height

MC-130J SPeCIFICATIOnS 97 ft 9 in.

Wingspan Horizontal tail span

Maximum takeoff/ landing weights

Maximum fuel offload at 1,000 n.mi radius

Landing/takeoff ground roll (maximum effort)

Maximum cruise speed

38 ft 9 in. 132 ft 7 in. 52 ft 8 in.

164,000/162,000 lb 21,000 lb 1,500 ft 335 KTAS

Power plant 4 Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 4,591 pshp engines, Dowty R391, 6-blade propellers, all composite

34 │ AIR COMMANDO JOURNAL │ Fall 2011 MC-130J CSO Station (photo courtesy of Lockheed-Martin)

aircraft and the requirements/equipment that would come with those missions. There are a number of possible options and AFSOC is ahead of the typical special ops modification requirement just by having the provision and sheet metal installed during aircraft production vice post-delivery. No doubt, the new, more powerful MC-130J climbs higher

quicker, flies farther faster, carries more cargo, can loiter longer or refuel more receivers, and is all around a much-improved Combat Shadow. Those traits alone should be enough justi- fication to recapitalize the 45-year-old MC-130P. But there is more to it than that. Combat Shadow II crews will now be equipped with a high-resolution, 21st Century radar. They’ll get Laser-based Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) to defeat surface-to-air missiles. They’ll have an on-board proces- sor that takes off-board software/hardware and integrates it for the aircrews without having to dig into the basic flight-direc- tor/management system, thus increasing situational awareness and facilitating improved (and additional) SOF missions. The MC-130J is a new standard and the baseline for future SOF C-130 MDSs. This author believes it will become the “Gold Standard Herk” that other US and international C-130 custom- ers will want to own. So, a new Shadow is cast; the best way to wring out all its potential is to hand it over to the AFSOC aircrews and maintainers. Because it is, and has always been, the AFSOC Airman who makes SOF unparalleled…without equal. This tradition will continue for the Combat Shadow II in ways us “old-timers” can’t imagine.

Col David Mobley is currently the Deputy Commander,

1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, FL and an MC-130P Combat Shadow Navigator

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