January 9, 2015 (by TSgt. Stacia Zachary) - The last MC-130H Combat Talon II departed January 8, 2015, thus ending its tenure at the 7th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall. The MC-130H, number #88-0195, is the last of its kind to leave the European theater. Its departure marks the final step of Special Operations Command Europe's transition from the Talon II to the CV-22 Osprey.
The aircrew prior to their departure flight January 8, 2015, from RAF Mildenhall to Hurlburt Field, Florida. This is the last MC-130H Combat Talon II departure, thus ending its tenure at the 7th SOS at RAF Mildenhall. The MC-130H, tail number 88-0195, is the last of its kind to leave the European theater. [USAF photo by TSgt. Stacia Zachary]
“This is a departure flight,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Powell, Joint Special Operations Air Component – Europe vice commander. “It’s a somber occasion. What you’ll see today is a real quiet and respectful departure because we understand the mission will never be the same as the 7th evolves into a new aircraft.”
The MC-130H Talon II is part of a rich and enduring legacy that dates back to the Carpetbaggers from World War II. The B-24 Liberators, which operated out of RAF Harrington, were painted a non-glossy black to make them less visible to search lights – much like modern-day special operations forces which operate under the cover of darkness.
“Heritage is important – especially as the 7th SOS says goodbye to the Talon II and evolves into the CV-22 and its new capabilities,” said Powell. “Special operations in Europe dates back not just to the Air Commandos tradition, but also to a Carpetbaggers tradition. It’s absolutely fundamental to emphasize that we have a tradition of zero mission failure and we rise to the challenge. Our heritage recognizes that and as the 7th (SOS) transitions to the CV-22, it’s clear that’s our future, too.”
The MC-130H Combat Talon II has participated in special operations missions ranging from air refueling of the military's vertical lift platforms; precision airdrop of personnel and equipment; and the execution of night, long-range, transportation and resupply of military forces across the globe.
The first major deployment for the 7th SOS during 1995 was to the Middle East for Exercise Noble Rose. Two 7th SOS MC-130H Combat Talon IIs and two 67th Special Operations Squadron HC-130P/N Combat Shadows supported U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEAL forces from March 15 to April 4, 1995.
When Operation Joint Endeavor began, the 352nd SOG’s mission expanded significantly during Operation Provide Promise. The severe flying weather in the Balkans during the winter months made the Combat Talon weapons system the ideal choice by planners to support the expanded Special Operations Command Implementation Force mission.
On Dec. 4, 1995, after receiving a deployment order from Special Operations Command Europe, two 7th SOS Combat Talon IIs departed RAF Mildenhall for Stuttgart, Germany, to onload the SOCEUR advance party and to proceed forward to Brindisi in Italy. A third Combat Talon was positioned there on Dec. 12, 1995. During December, the 7th SOS flew 215.8 hours and 77 sorties supporting Operation Joint Endeavor. No aircraft losses or damages were incurred during the month-long operation, yet the threat from freedom fighters on the ground, and the severe weather restricting flight visibility, had posed a real threat to the safety of the crews. Since then, the Combat Talon II has participated in several operations to include Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The Combat Talon II boasts an extensive electronic warfare suite that 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 and vertical lift assets.
“There’s no plane that can do what a Talon II can do,” Powell said. “But in a few years I think the mission will evolve into other platforms. Right now, that’s the CV-22.”
The CV-22 Osprey, the premier tiltrotor aircraft, was built with many of the capabilities legacy special operations aircraft have.
The Combat Talon IIs from RAF Mildenhall will be become part of the 15th Special Operations Squadron’s mission at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
“The nice thing about this departure flight is, these planes are not going to the boneyard,” Powell said. “They’re going back to Hurlburt Field where they’ll continue to fly and make an impact for special operations. They still have a lot of life left in them.”