November 1, 2019 (by TSgt. Kelly Goonan) - The 920th Rescue Wing is celebrating the legacy of its HC-130P/N combat-rescue fleet as the wing expects to receive a replacement fleet of HC-130J in the Spring of 2020. This new airframe will not only replace the legacy HC-130 fleet but with its arrival also comes the elimination of two aviation career fields: Flight Engineer and Airborne Mission Systems Specialist.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk receives fuel from HC-130P #64-14855 on May 5 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Both aircraft belong to Air Force Reserve Command's 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Florida. [USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo]
“This is the first time in my Air Force career that I’m switching jobs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jesus Ulloa, 39th Rescue Squadron Airborne Mission Systems Specialist. “We’re losing quite a few crew members with the new J model, so the job will be a little more demanding on the rest of us.”
To pay homage to the retiring fleet, the wing will be hosting an HC-130 Combat-Rescue Aircraft Retirement Event with several generations of aviators from around the world attending Nov. 1 through Nov. 3, 2019. This event will provide an opportunity for past and present Air Force members associated with the HC-130 fixed-wing rescue mission to take part in a meet and greet social, aircraft static display, aerial demonstrations and other family-oriented activities.
“Just like with any old car, it’s sad to see the old classic go away,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Decker, 39th RQS Flight Engineer.
First flown in 1964, HC-130P/N fleet have been deployed to Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey in support of operations Southern and Northern Watch, Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. HC-130s also supported continuous alert commitments in Alaska and the Horn of Africa. Master Sgt. Mark Victor, 39th RQS loadmaster, further elaborated that this 55-year old fleet has also been involved in Vietnam, Granada and Desert Storm.
According to Stephanie Stinn, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics communications, the new HC-130J outperforms older C-130s in combat operations by at least a 2:1 margin and demonstrate reliability that far exceeds most other military aircraft with average mission capable rates routinely in the 80 to 90 percent range.
The HC-130J is a result of the HC/MC-130 recapitalization program and replaces Air Combat Command's aging HC-130P/N fleet as the dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s a four-engine turboprop tactical transport aircraft with hose and drogue aerial refueling, airdrop, and command and control capabilities. Modifications include the ability to receive fuel in-flight, a nose-mounted electro-optical/infrared sensor and a combat systems operator flight deck station.
The HC/MC-130J brings additional countermeasure dispensers, high-altitude ramp and door hydraulics, an additional (fourth) flight deck crew member station, crash-worthy loadmaster scanner-position seats, provisions for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures and more. Because the J model brings so many changes, nearly every member in the 39th RQS will undergo either a transition education course or initial qualification course before they’ll be fully qualified to fly the new J model. These courses take five to 10 months to complete, depending on which one the member requires.
“Seven initial cadre aircrew are attending initial training at Little Rock AFB to augment training at Kirtland AFB,” said Lt. Col. Ellis Garner, 39th RQS commander. “The first aircrew will complete mission qualification in Feb. 2020.”
Currently, there are over 15 aviators in training and the 39th is expecting to send another 10 between November and February.
The first HC-130J Combat King II delivered to the Air Force was delivered in Sept. 2011 to the 79th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The aircraft will serve the many roles and missions of the HC-130P/Ns. The aircraft is designed to conduct personnel recovery missions, provide a command and control platform, in-flight-refuel helicopters and carry supplemental fuel for extending range or air refueling.