Primary Role: Infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces
“Combat Talon I” & “Combat Talon II”
The MC-130E/H aircraft provide global, day, night and adverse weather capability to infiltrate, resupply and exfiltrate U.S. and allied special operations forces.
The MC-130E “Combat Talon I” also has a deep penetrating helicopter refueling role during special operations missions. Some of the MC-130Es are equipped with the Fulton air recovery system; a safe, rapid method of recovering personnel or equipment from either land or water. It involves use of a large, helium-filled balloon used to raise a 450-foot (137m) nylon lift line. The MC-130E flies toward the lift line at 150 miles per hour (241km/h), snags it with scissors-like arms located on the aircraft nose and the person or equipment is lifted off, experiencing less shock than that caused by a parachute opening. Aircrew members then use a hydraulic winch to pull the person or equipment aboard through the open rear cargo door.
The MC-130H “Combat Talon II” conducts infiltrations into politically denied/sensitive defended areas to resupply or exfiltrate special operations forces and equipment. These missions are conducted in adverse weather at low-level and long range. The MC-130H is supported with organic depots for the aircraft, radar, radome, and mission computer.
Both aircraft are equipped with in-flight refueling equipment, terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar, an inertial and global positioning satellite navigation system, and a high-speed aerial delivery system. The special navigation and aerial delivery systems are used to locate small drop zones and deliver personnel or equipment with greater accuracy and higher speeds than possible with a standard C-130. The aircraft also can penetrate hostile airspace at low altitudes, and crews are specially trained in night and adverse weather operations.
Combat Talons feature highly automated controls and displays to reduce crew size and workload. The cockpit and cargo areas are compatible with night vision goggles. The integrated control and display subsystem combines basic aircraft flight, tactical and mission sensor data into a comprehensive set of display formats that assist each operator in performing tasks efficiently.
On the MC-130H, the pilot and co-pilot displays on the cockpit instrument panel and the navigator/electronic warfare operator console on the aft portion of the flight deck each have two video displays and a data-entry keyboard. The electronic warfare operator also has a data-entry keyboard and two video displays, one of which is dedicated to electronic warfare data. The navigator uses radar ground map displays, forward-looking infrared displays, tabular mission management displays and equipment status information.
Since 1979, a number of MC-130H aircraft have been delivered to the USAF. These later models are equipped with more advanced avionics including the ALR-46 radar-warning receiver and ALE-27 chaff dispenser.
Primary Role: Aerial refueling of special operations forces helicopters
First flown in 1964, the aircraft has served many roles and missions. Originally designated as the HC-130N/P, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aircraft designations were changed in February 1996 to align them with all other M-series special operations mission aircraft. All HC-130N/P aircraft not assigned to AFSOC have retained their rescue aircraft designation.
The MC-130P “Combat Shadow” flies clandestine or low-visibility, low-level missions into politically sensitive or hostile territory to provide air refueling for special operations helicopters. The MC-130P primarily flies its single or multi-ship missions at night to reduce detection and intercept by airborne threats. Secondary mission capabilities include airdrop of small special operations teams, small bundles, and zodiac and combat rubber raiding craft; as well as night-vision goggle takeoffs and landings, tactical airborne radar approaches and in-flight refueling as a receiver.
MC-130P “Combat Shadow” and MC-130E “Combat Talon I” aircraft have similar missions, but the E-models have more instruments designed for covert operations. Both aircraft fly infiltration/exfiltration missions airdrop or airland personnel and equipment in hostile territory. They also aerial refuel special operations helicopters and usually fly missions at night with aircrews using night-vision goggles. The “Combat Talon I”, however, has an electronic countermeasures suite and terrain-following radar that enables it to fly extremely low, counter enemy radar and penetrate deep into hostile territory.
When fully modified, the MC-130P will have a fully integrated inertial navigation and global positioning system (GPS), and night-vision goggle-compatible interior and exterior lighting. It will also have a forward-looking infrared radar, missile and radar warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, night-vision goggle compatible heads-up display, satellite and data burst communications, and in-flight refueling capability as a receiver.
One notable external feature is the large “blister” located on top of the aircraft’s fuselage, forward of the wing. Originally designed to house the Cook Electric re-entry tracking system, this feature has been removed and many of the aircraft have since lost the “blisters” as well.
Note: The U.S. Coast Guard operates the HC-130H variant. Primarily used for the role of maritime patrol/search and rescue, the HC-130H is not capable of refueling other aircraft in-flight.