The HC-130P/N is an extended-range, combat search and rescue version of the C-130 Hercules transport. Its mission is to extend the range of combat search and rescue helicopters by providing air refueling.
Secondary mission capabilities include performing tactical airdrops of pararescue specialist teams, small bundles, zodiac watercraft, or four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles, providing direct assistance to a survivor in advance of the arrival of a recovery vehicle. Other capabilities are extended visual and electronic searches over land or water, tactical airborne radar approaches and unimproved airfield operations. A team of three pararescue specialists, trained in emergency trauma medicine, harsh environment survival and assisted evasion techniques, are part of the basic mission crew complement.
Combat Air Forces HC-130 aircraft are undergoing extensive modifications. When modifications are complete in fiscal 2000, all aircraft will feature improved navigation, communications, threat detection and countermeasures systems.
Ongoing modifications for the HC-130 include an integrated global positioning system navigation package, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, airborne integrated satellite communications radios and cockpit armor. Selected aircraft are in the process of being equipped with night vision goggle-compatible interior and exterior lighting, a personnel locator system compatible with aircrew survival radios, an improved digital low-power color radar and forward-looking infrared systems.
The HC-130 can fly in the day against a reduced threat; however, crews normally fly night, low-level, air refueling and airdrop operations using night vision goggles (NVG). It can fly low-level NVG tactical flight profiles to avoid detection. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, crews employ tactics that include incorporating no external lighting or communications, and avoiding radar and weapons detection.
In addition, Air Combat Command is exploring the potential acquisition of the HC-130J model. HC-130 avionics are slated for complete update through Air Mobility Command's Aviation Modernization Program.
The HC-130P/N is the only dedicated fixed-wing combat search and rescue platform in the Air Force inventory. The 71st Rescue Squadron in Air Combat Command, the 102nd RQS, 129th RQS and 210th RQS in the Air National Guard, and the 39th RQS and 303rd RQS in the Air Force Reserve Command operate the aircraft.
First flown in 1964, the aircraft has served many roles and missions. The aircraft was initially modified to conduct search and rescue missions, provide a command and control platform, in-flight-refuel helicopters and carry supplemental fuel for extending range or air refueling.
HC-130s have been in Air Combat Command since 1992. Previously, they were assigned to the Air Rescue Service as part of Military Airlift Command. They have been deployed to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Italy since 1993 in support of operations Southern and Northern Watch and Allied Force. HC-130s also support continuous alert commitments in Alaska, Japan and Iceland, and provide rescue coverage for space shuttle operations in Florida.
Courtesy: U.S. Air Force