An MC-130P Combat Shadow, top, an MC-130J Commando II, center, and an MC-130H Combat Talon II off the coast of Okinawa, January 26, 2015.
US Air Force/Senior Airman Maeson Elleman
Since the mid-1960s, the Air Force has used the MC-130 to support special-operations missions all over the world.
The Air Force is now rolling out the MC-130J model, and it will remain important as special operators adapt to new challenges.
“The MC-130 is a very versatile and flexible aircraft,” a former Air Force officer and Combat Talon pilot told Insider.
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The US military has thousands of aircraft that can launch attacks and support conventional operations, from the futuristic F-35 and F-22 fighters to the venerable A-10 and AC-130 close air support planes.
When it comes to supporting special-operations units, the MC-130 has an essential if little-known role.
MC-130 variants have participated in every major and minor US military campaign since the Vietnam War, backing up special-operations units in some of the biggest commando missions.
The first versions of the aircraft flew in the Son Tay prisoner rescue in North Vietnam in 1970. Ten years later, MC-130s participated in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission to rescue American hostages held in Iran.
MC-130s were also part of the first major Delta Force and Ranger mission in Afghanistan in 2001, and an MC-130 was the first aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
From the jungles of Vietnam
An MC-130E on its final flight before retirement, April 15, 2013. The MC-130E was developed to support special operations during the Vietnam War.
US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.
During the Vietnam War, the Air Force began experimenting with using a large transport aircraft to support large commando operations. Helicopters could only lift so much and fly so far.
Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation (MACV-SOG), a secretive force that conducted missions behind enemy lines, specifically needed the capability to support its recon teams that went across the fence.
Composed of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, and Air Commandos, SOG conducted covert operations in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and North Vietnam, where US troops weren’t supposed to be.
The introduction of the MC-130 allowed SOG to be more effective in its covert war in Southeast Asia. The Air Commandos who flew the aircraft received the Presidential Unit Citation for their performance, which paved the way for a mission that is still going nearly 70 years later.
A special-operations workhorse
A cockpit of the MC-130J, seen here on April 5, 2011, has state-of-the-art technology.
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay
The MC-130 fleet of about 60 planes is the backbone of Air Force Special Operations Command’s fixed-wing force.
The latest iteration, the MC-130J Commando II, specializes in the infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special-operations units in semi- or non-permissive areas.
It can also support psychological operations – dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages – and provide aerial refueling for special-operations helicopters.
Each Commando II costs $114 million and is operated by a …read more
Source:: Business Insider