The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Secondary missions include psychological operations, and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.
The aircraft features terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radars capable of operations as low as 250 feet in adverse weather conditions. Structural changes to a basic C-130 include the addition of an in-flight refueling receptacle and strengthening of the tail to allow high speed/low-signature airdrop. Their navigation suites include dual ring-laser gyros, mission computers and integrated global positioning system. They can locate and either land or airdrop on small, unmarked zones with pinpoint accuracy day or night.
An extensive electronic warfare suite enables the aircrew to detect and avoid potential threats. If engaged, the system will protect the aircraft from both radar and infrared-guided threats.
The MC-130H is equipped with aerial refueling pods to provide in-flight refueling of special operations forces and combat search and rescue helicopters and vertical lift assets. The MC-130H, designed in the 1980s, features an integrated glass flight deck which improves crew coordination and reduces the crew complement by two.
The first variant of the MC-130, the MC-130E Combat Talon, first flew in 1966 and saw extensive service in Southeast Asia, including the attempted rescue of Americans held at the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam in 1970. Also, the MC-130E landed in the Iranian desert in April 1980 in support of Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue American hostages held by Iran.
Combat Talon IIs first arrived at Hurlburt Field, Florida, June 29, 1992, and after acceptance testing, began official flying operations Oct. 17, 1992. Since then, the MC-130H has played a vital role in AFSOC operations. Some of the aircraft's highlights include the evacuations of non-combatant Americans and other civilians from conflicts in Liberia in 1996. Also, in 1998, a Combat Talon II aircrew was awarded the Mackay Trophy for their involvement in the evacuation of civilians from the Republic of the Congo in 1997, and they participated in combat operations in the Balkans during Operation Allied Force.
In 2001, MC-130Hs were employed to seize an airfield in southern Afghanistan, delivering U.S. Army Rangers to commence ground operations in Operation Enduring Freedom. Later in 2003, the MC-130H was the first U.S. aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport to initiate missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since October 2001, this aircraft has been used extensively in combat and humanitarian operations worldwide including operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve, Resolute Support, Tomodachi in Japan, Unified Response in Haiti, and Sahayogi Haat in Nepal.
The MC-130H is being replaced by the MC-130J Commando II. The MC-130H retirement is scheduled to be complete by fiscal year 2024.
Primary function: Infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces
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: 99 feet, 9 inches (30.4 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph
Load: 77 troops, 52 paratroopers or 57 litter patients
Ceiling: 33,000 feet (10,000 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Range: 2,700 nautical miles (4,344 kilometers); in-flight refueling extends this to unlimited range
Crew: Two pilots, a navigator and electronic warfare officer (officers); flight engineer and two loadmasters (enlisted)
Date deployed: June 1991
Unit cost: $160 million
(Current as of March 2021)