MC-130J Commando II

The MC-130J is USAF’s next-generation special operations tanker/ mobility aircraft based on the C-130J. Designated Commando II (previously Combat Shadow II) in honor of the WWII C-47, the aircraft are tasked with covert day, night, and adverse weather infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces in hostile or denied territory.

They also provide airdrop resupply, rotary wing aerial refueling, psyops, and rubber raiding craft deployment for littoral ingress/egress. Specialized mission systems include advanced, integrated defensive systems including LAIRCM, EO/IR targeting sensor, and an added CSO flight-deck station to manage refueling, tactical navigation, and comms. MC-130Js are equipped with wingmounted external tanks and drogue refueling pods to provision tilt-rotor and rotary-winged aircraft as well as a boom-style receptacle to receive fuel in-flight. The MC-130J shares system commonality with both the HC-130J rescue and AC-130J gunship versions, sharing overlapping upgrades and modernization with both types. The MC-130J was pulled out of baseline C-130J Block 7/8.1 software upgrades, which were then merged with comm/ nav modernization in 2022. “Block 8.X” now comprises critical software for HF/VHF/UHF SATCOM upgrades, including secure, jam-resistant Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) BLOS and anti-jam NATO-interoperable SATURN UHF. Link 16 mods were delayed for funding and a planned switch to high-capacity, jam-resistant MIDS-JTRS. Commando II marks a significant capability enhancement with the addition of Terrain-Following/ Terrain Avoidance (TF/TA) radar (housed in a second radome below the cockpit). Silent Knight TF/TA will enable the MC-130J to fully replace the MC130H’s low-level nighttime/adverse weather penetration role. Development concluded in 2021 and AFSOC plans to field four TF/TA-equipped aircraft this year. FY23 funds six radars as well as bringing two early airframes up to fleet-standard configuration. MC-130Js are also receiving modernized EW and tactical situational awareness via Radio Frequency Countermeasure (RFCM) and Airborne Mission Networking (AbMN). RFCM improves detection, location, and response to emerging threats, while AbMN gives the aircrew a common air/ground picture to manage complex workloads.
AFSOC is consolidating its multimission fleet, retiring the MC-130H and EC-130J Commando Solo/Super J. Three MC-130Js are planned for delivery in 2023, including initial aircraft for the Pennsylvania ANG’s 193rd SOW. Aircraft previously earmarked for gunship conversion were redirected to the unit to stand up the first non-Active-duty MC-130J unit which received its first aircraft on Feb. 7, 2023. Demonstration of a float-equipped MC-130J for non-runway operations in INDOPACOM was delayed, despite showing conceptual viability in 2022.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin (airframe); Boeing; Sierra Nevada Corp. (RFCM).
First Flight: April 20, 2011.
Delivered: Sept. 29, 2011-present.
IOC: Dec. 7, 2012.
Production: 59 (planned).
Inventory: 54.
Operator: AETC, AFSOC.
Aircraft Location: Cannon AFB, N.M.; Kadena AB, Japan; Kirtland AFB, N.M.; RAF Mildenhall, U.K.
Active Variants: •MC-130J. New-build aircraft based on the standard-length fuselage C-130J.
Dimensions: Span 132.6 ft, length 97.8 ft, height 38.8 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 164,000 lb.
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 turboprops, each 4,591 shp.
Performance: Speed 416 mph, range 3,000 miles (further with air refueling).
Fuel Capacity: 61,360 lb at 150-300 gpm (100 gpm dual, simultaneous refueling).
Ceiling: 28,000 ft with 42,000-lb payload.
Accommodation: Two pilots, CSO, two loadmasters.
Load: 42,000 lb of cargo/personnel (see C-130J for configurations).

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