The mission of the MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130H Combat Talon II is to provide global, day, night and adverse weather capability to airdrop and airland personnel and equipment in support of U.S. and allied special operations forces. These aircraft are equipped with in-flight refueling equipment, terrain-following, terrain-avoidance radar, an inertial and global positioning satellite navigation system, and a high-speed aerial delivery system. All twenty-four aircraft have been delivered.
The MC-130P (formerly the HC-130P/N) 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's 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, AFSOC's tanker fleet was redesignated MC-130P's, aligning the Combat Shadow with other M-series special operations mission aircraft.
MC-130P Combat Shadows and MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft have similar missions, but the Combat Talon I has more instruments designed for covert operations. Both aircraft are designed to deliver and pick up people and equipment in hostile territory. They also air refuel special operations helicopters and usually fly missions at night with air crews 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.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has a requirement for a C-130 engine infrared (IR) signature suppression system to provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) C-130 aircraft with an IR signature reduction equal to or better than existing systems at a lower cost of ownership. The primary difficulties with present suppressor systems are low reliability and poor maintainability. This C-130 Engine Infrared Suppression (EIRS) Program system will be used on AC-130H/U, MC-130E/H/P, and EC-130E aircraft. The key requirements for the Engine IR Suppression system are: (a) improved reliability and maintainability over existing systems to result in lower total cost of ownership; (b) IR signature suppression levels as good as the current engine shield system (aka. Tubs); (c) no adverse impacts to aircraft performance and ability to accomplish SOF missions; (d) complete interchangeability between engine positions and identified aircraft types. The suppressor is expected to be a semi-permanent installation, with removal being primarily for servicing, allowing the aircraft to perform all required missions with the suppressors installed. There will be up to two competitive contracts awarded for the initial phases of development with a downselect to one contractor for the completion of development and production.
The Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) program develops and procures 60 systems and provides 59 SOF aircraft (AC-130H/U, MC-130E/H) with a DIRCM system capability. The DIRCM system will work in conjunction with other onboard self-protection systems to enhance the aircraft's survivability against currently deployed infrared guided missiles. Growth is planned to add a capability to detect and counter advanced threats. Execution of this program is in concert with a joint US/UK cooperative development/ production effort with the UK as lead. Development and acquisition of the DIRCM system will be in accordance with UK procurement laws/regulations. UK designation for this program is "Operational Emergency Requirements 3/89."
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