An MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 17th Special Operations Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, begins its takeoff roll on the runway in 2003 at Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Henderson)
LANGKAWI, Malaysia -- An MC-130P Combat Shadow from Kadena Air Base, Japan, takes off from here Jan 14. Crews from Kadena's 17th Special Operations Squadron fly into Indonesia daily, shuttling humanitarian relief supplies into Banda Aceh. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Farris)
LUNGI, Sierra Leone -- An Air Force MC-130P Combat Shadow lands here with supplies and people headed for the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia on July 28. The aircraft is assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. The 398th Air Expeditionary Group is here to provide personnel recovery and emergency evacuation capability for the humanitarian assistance survey team and the fleet antiterrorism security team in Liberia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Pyle)
OVER SOUTH AFRICA -- An MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopter from the 21st Special Operations Squadron, refuels from an MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 67th Special Operations Squadron. Both Squadrons are from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, and deployed to Air Force Base Hoedspruit, South Africa, to support Operation Atlas Response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cary Humphries)
Mission The Combat Shadow flies clandestine, or low visibility, single or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters, and infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces by airdrop or airland intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories. The MC-130P primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats. Its secondary mission includes the airdrop of leaflets.
Features Modifications to the MC-130P feature improved navigation, communications, threat detection and countermeasures systems. The Combat Shadow fleet has a fully-integrated inertial navigation and global positioning system, and night vision goggle compatible interior and exterior lighting. It also has forward looking infrared, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, satellite and data-burst communications, as well as in-flight refueling capability as a receiver (on 14 aircraft).
The Combat Shadow can fly in the day against a low threat. The crews fly night low-level, air refueling and formation operations using night vision goggles. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, employment tactics incorporate no external lighting and no communications to avoid radar and weapons detection.
Background MC-130Ps were previously designated HC-130N/P. However, the "H" designation is a rescue and recovery mission code and not representative of the aircraft's special operations role. In February 1996, Air Force Special Operations Command's tanker fleet was redesignated MC-130P aircraft, aligning the Combat Shadow with other M-series special operations mission aircraft. The aircraft have been part of the special operations mission since the mid-1980s. They provided critical air refueling to Army and Air Force helicopters during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989. In 1990, the aircraft deployed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey for Operation Desert Storm and provided air refueling of special operations helicopters over friendly and hostile territory.
Since Desert Storm, the MC-130P has been involved in many operations: Northern and Southern Watch, Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Assured Response in Liberia, Guardian Retrieval from Zaire, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, and Odyssey Dawn.
The Combat Shadow has supported and participated in numerous evacuations, search, and humanitarian relief operations missions and continues this support today.
Primary Function: Air refueling for special operation forces helicopters Builder: Lockheed Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters) Length: 98 feet, 9 inches (30.09 meters) Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters) Speed: 289 mph (at sea level) Ceiling: 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms) Range: Beyond 4,000 miles Crew: Two pilots and two navigators (officers); flight engineer, communications systems operator and two loadmasters (enlisted) Date Deployed: 1986 Unit Cost: $75 million (fiscal 2001 dollars) Inventory: Active force, 23; Reserve, 0; ANG, 4