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MC-130H Combat Talon II

The MC-130H Combat Talon II conducts infiltrations into politically denied/sensitive defended areas to resupply or exfiltrate special operations forces and equipment. These missions are conducted in adverse weather at low-level and long range. The MC-130H is supported with organic depots for the aircraft, radar, radome, and mission computer. Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter air refueling.

The MC-130H 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. The navigation suite includes dual ring-laser gyros, mission computers and integrated global positioning system. The aircraft 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 is designed to 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.

The primary difference between the MC-130H Combat Talon I and the previous MC-130E Combat Talon is the degree of integration of the mission computers and avionics suite. The Combat Talon I was conceived originally and developed during the 1960s, and although extensively upgraded in the 1980-90s, the aircraft still featured analog instrumentation and had not fully integrate the sensors and communications suites as of 2007. The Combat Talon II, designed in the 1980s, features an integrated glass flight deck which improves crew coordination and reduces the crew complement by two.

The AN/APQ-170 radar was developed for the MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft. The AN/APQ-170 multimode radar was a redundant, dual-band forward looking radar that integrates terrain-following and terrain-avoidance features, as well as ground-mapping, weather detection and avoidance, and beacon interrogation modes of operation. These special navigation and aerial delivery systems were used to locate small drop zones and deliver people or equipment with greater accuracy and at higher speeds than possible with a standard C-130. The MC-130H aircraft was able to penetrate hostile airspace at low altitudes and crews are specially trained in night and adverse weather operations.

The pilot and co-pilot displays on the cockpit instrument panel and the navigator/electronic warfare operator console, on the aft portion of the flight deck, have 2 video displays and a data-entry keyboard. The electronic warfare operator has one video display dedicated to electronic warfare data. The primary pilot and co-pilot display formats include basic flight instrumentation and situational data. The display formats are available with symbology alone or with symbology overlaid with sensor video. The navigator uses radar ground map displays, forward-looking infrared display, tabular mission management displays and equipment status information. The electronic warfare operator's displays are used for viewing the electronic warfare data and to supplement the navigators in certain critical phases.

The MC-130H features highly automated controls and displays to reduce crew size and work load. The cockpit and cargo areas are compatible with night vision goggles. The integrated control and display subsystem combines basic aircraft flight, tactical and mission sensor data into a comprehensive set of display formats that assists each operator performing tasks. On the one hand, the MC-130H is one of the best missionized aircraft in the world. The pilot puts the cue on the dot and can fly any terrain by following profile programmed by the navigator and the aircraft system. On the other hand, it is a poor instrument aircraft. The tape digital displays make it extremely difficult to fly.

At the direction of Congress in 1981, a program was developed to upgrade and expand the Combat Talon fleet, named Combat Talon II. Actual flight testing of the MC-130H aircraft began in September 1988. The 1275th Test and Evaluation Squadron was responsible for initial flight testing. The MC-130H Combat Talon II first arrived at Hurlburt Field, Florida on 29 June 1992, and after acceptance testing, began official flying operations on 17 October 1992.

During the first-ever Worldwide Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP) Conference held in February 1995, FARP operations were termed by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Commander as the most dangerous job AFSOC did on a day-to-day basis. Team members were required to go through a rigorous amount of continuous training before being qualified for duty. They had to pass a class III flight physical, physiological training and then be trained in life support, intelligence, night vision googles, ground egress, ground crew chemical warfare, and air crew chemical warfare training. After completing this training, members attended FARP training school at Hurlburt Field, Florida and complete Phase I, II and III FARP training before being certified. Additional training included the Air Force Combat and Water Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; Aerial Bulk Fuels Delivery System and Air Transportable Hydrant Refueling System schools. Once team members were certified and met all the criteria, they were awarded the 035 FARP Special Experience Identifier (SEI) and received Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP) after 6 months of experience.

The FARP concept had come about after the 1980 Iran hostage rescue attempt. The Air Force realized the need for a highly efficient way of transferring fuel from aircraft to aircraft in a non-standard or hostile environment. FARP operations expanded the role of special operation forces around the world by providing a means of hot refueling from a tanker aircraft to various types of fixed and rotor wing receiver aircraft. FARP missions were flown at only 5 bases around the world: Kadena Air Base, Japan; RAF Mildenhall, England; Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, Florida; Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina; and Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Responsibility for the 5 teams, equipment and all FARP missions fell under the operations of Headquarters, AFSOC at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The MC-130H Combat Talon II could deploy over 900 feet of refueling hoses in preparation for covert hot (engines running) refueling operation of 2 helicopters. Night vision goggles would be the only means of sight as the rear of the plane was in blacked-out mode. The helicopter pilots would hover-taxi their craft to within a few hundred feet of one another and the MC-130 for the refueling operation. Without any overt lighting, bonding the aircraft together and finding the refueling connections was extremely tough. The jet fuel would then be pumped into the helicopters to provide them with the lifeblood necessary to complete their mission. After the last helicopter left the area, personnel would begin to break down the equipment and load it back onto the aircraft.

In April 1996, MC-130H Talon II aircraft from the 7th Special Operations Squadron, based at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, deployed to Liberia in support of Operation Assured Response. Special operations troops from RAF Mildenhall evacuated more than 2,000 Americans and citizens of other countries from Monrovia following 4 days of intense fighting by rival militias.

While fighting raged in the Republic of Congo's capital on 10 June 1997, an Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130H delivered an American military assessment team and evacuated 56 people from Brazzaville. The aircraft, from the 7th Special Operations Squadron, inserted a European Command survey and assessment team and support vehicles. The team, consisting of communications, logistics, security and other specialists conducted infrastructure assessments and evaluated the need for further EUCOM support to the US Embassy in Brazzaville.

In the mid-1990s an operational flight program release on the MC-130H was supposed to affect only the terrain-following system of the aircraft. The aircraft was released for flight under the assumption that it would operate properly as long as the terrain-following system was not engaged. In the middle of a training flight, during an engine-out approach, the crew noticed that the "ball" (primary flight coordination instrument) was indicating sideslip in the opposite direction. As the terrain-following system was an integral part of the operational flight program, a change to the terrain-following system software resulted in an erroneous reading in another part of the system. If the operational flight program had made it into the fleet, or an experienced test crew had not been flying the aircraft, a serious accident would have been likely.

Reliability and maintainability upgrades for the APQ-170 radar included a package compilation of fixes to field reported problems, qualifications testing and laboratory testing fixes identified under the main MC-130H Combat Talon II production effort. Modifications were form, fit and function replacements for existing radar components. All 66 radar equivalent ship sets would be retrofitted by the contractor. These 66 ship sets were comprised of 24 aircraft, 6 hot mock-ups, 2 sets in laboratory testing at the contractor facility, and 34 spare sets. The program funds would be used to procure the upgrade kits and perform the actual retrofit. The installation schedule would be driven by failure rates. This was originally a single year buy, but subsequently was spread over 3 years by OUSD. An ECP to Lockheed Martin Federal Systems (the APQ-170 contractor) would provide these upgrades.

The Communication Navigation Upgrade Program provided the MC-130H Combat Talon II Warfighter with the increased military communication and navigation capability required for mission effectiveness in the next century. Specifically, the Communication Navigation Upgrade integrated narrow band SATCOM Demand Assigned Multiple Access modem capability, the ARC-222 Single Channel Ground to Airborne Radio System , the HF Automatic Communications Processor including common area fills, and a 3.5" disk drive into Combat Talon II across the 1553B data busses. In addition, the Communication Navigation Upgrade added 2 additional 1553B data busses, upgraded the existing cryptographic capability, and located all TRANSEC and COMSEC fill devices in one central location easily accessible to the Warfighter. The Communication Navigation Upgrade consisted of all non-recurring engineering, development, flight test, aircraft installations, and support equipment upgrades necessary to support the modification. Lockheed Martin Federal Systems was responsible for the Communication Navigation Upgrade non-recurring effort, trial installation, flight test, kit proof, aircraft installations, and maintenance trainer upgrade.

Two initiatives were undertaken with the Communication Navigation Upgrade Program acquisition program. First, the Government and Contractor teams worked together to develop the proposal. The unified team worked from requirements definition to proposal submittal and jointly developed the Integrated Master Plan/Schedule, wrote the Statement of Work, determined the required CDRLs and level of tailoring, wrote the terms and conditions, and even prepared the budget information. The result was a seamless transfer of requirements information to the Contractor, and contract information to the Government which avoided costly proposal revisions that previously plagued the Combat Talon II team. Second, an internally developed "Gate Process" was used to manage proposal preparation and program risk at appropriate times. Similar to the acquisition life cycle process, the "Gate Process" identified key proposal preparation phases, milestones, and entry/exit criteria.

Another upgrade program modified MC-130H aircraft to add aerial refueling capability, internal fuel tanks and enlarged paratroop door window. The modification provided plumbing and an operational flight program update. The MC-130H Aerial Refueling System Pod project evaluated an advanced aerial refueling capability to the MC-130H Combat Talon II. Manufactured by Flight Refuelling, Limited of the United Kingdom, the system provided a wing-mounted hose and drogue aerial refueling pod capable of meeting US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) requirements. Special operations forces rotary wing aircraft did not have enough refueling support to meet mission requirements at the time. This system was a pre-planned product improvement envisioned for the MC-130H to meet this shortfall.

In February 1998, Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Inc. of Owego, New York was awarded a $5,396,764 face value increase to a firm-fixed-price contract to provide for design, development, production, and installation of an upgrade to the power distribution system on 12 MC-130H aircraft. The contract was expected to be completed May 2001.

As of 2000, 24 MC-130Hs had been delivered. The Combat Talon II program, which achieved initial operating capability in June 1993, was expected to achieve full operating capability in FY00. MC-130H aircraft had participated in a number of operations during the 1990s, including in the Balkans. After the events of 11 September 2001, MC-130H aircraft were also deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In January 2011, following a devastating earthquake in Haiti, MC-130H aircraft assisted relief operations as part of Operation Unified Response.

In March 2011, following a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, MC-130H aircraft assisted relief operations as part of Operation Tomodachi.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:34:05 ZULU