These MC-130Js Can Go Places and Do Things You Don’t Need to Know About
The United States Air Force (USAF) has operated the Lockheed MC-130J Commando II since 2011. These shadowy we-were-never-there special operations-centric airlifter/tankers operate around the world, but you’ll have a hard time proving it. So when not one or two, but four of them show up flying the Mach Loop in Wales it’s a happening. The mesmerizing video footage and crisp still images captured while the MC-130Js flew four laps through the Mach Loop were captured by and uploaded to YouTube by Dafydd Phillips. More about the Commando II after the video.
Commando II Mission Statement
According to the US Air Force, the Commando II flies “clandestine, or low visibility, single or multiship, low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, and infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces (SOF) by airdrop or airland intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories.” The MC-130J primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats. Its secondary mission includes the airdrop of leaflets (yawn). We already know the J series Hercules are capable of some absolutely incredible aerial feats.
Sophisticated Yet Unapproachable
From the Air Force sales glossy, the MC-130J Commando II features the new Enhanced Service Life Wing (ESLW) along with an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics, fully-populated Combat Systems Operator (CSO) and auxiliary flight deck stations, 13 color multi-functional liquid crystal displays, head-up displays, fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation system (INS) and global positioning system (GPS), fully-integrated defensive systems, low-power color radar, digital moving map display, and new Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines spinning six-bladed, all-composite Dowty propellers.
Fully Loaded- Even Before the Payload
Also present in the MC-130J are a digital auto pilot, improved fuel, environmental and icing-protection systems, enhanced cargo-handling system, the Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI), dual air refueling pods, Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) System, dual satellite communications (SATCOM) systems for voice/data, 60/90 kilovolt-ampere (kVA) generators, increased DC electrical output, loadmaster/scanner restraint system, and Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) provisions. Talk about loaded!
Replacing Spec Ops Legends
The MC-130J has largely replaced the aging fleet of 37 special operations-dedicated MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130P Combat Shadow airlifter/tankers. The original name for the MC-130J was Combat Shadow II in honor of the MC-130P but was renamed in 2012 to Commando II. Previous special operations Hercules variants were modified after they were built to include mission equipment, but the Commando II was the first to be built from the wheels up as a spec ops airlifter/tanker. The first MC-130J was delivered in 2011.
Is That Overworked CSO Paid Double or What?
Commando IIs operate with a 5-member crew. The Combat Systems Operator (CSO) navigator and the enlisted flight engineer positions, previously part of the Combat Shadow crews, were eliminated in the MC-130J. So in the Commando II the remaining CSO handles electronic warfare, navigation, and aerial refueling. The 522nd Special Operations Squadron (SOS) was the first unit to operate the MC-130J Commando II. MC-130Js operate primarily out of RAF Mildenhall in the UK and Kadena Air Base in Japan when forward deployed and from Hurlburt Field in Florida and Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico when stateside. Just don’t tell them we mentioned it!