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Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon (I / II) Special Forces Transport Aircraft

In service since the Vietnam War, the Combat Talon series of aircraft has served in a multitude of mission types and is still in operational service today.

 Updated: 6/18/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The MC-130 series is represented by the MC-130E Combat Talon I and the MC-130H Combat Talon II systems. Both utilize the hugely successful C-130 Hercules airframe and were designed specifically for use with special forces operators but have also been featured in humanitarian efforts as well and have seen action since the Vietnam War. Their primary role is that of insertion/extraction of special forces groups and delivering cargo to such forces when operating behind enemy lines. Both series of aircraft are still in operational use with the United States Air Force, which as of this writing, maintains 20 active MC-130H types and 10 reserve MC-130E types.

Though similar in many ways, each Combat Talon variant is made different by its internal computer and avionics packages. The Combat Talon I was, however, designed in the 1960's while the Combat Talon II represents a much improved version of that base platform though both operate in similar roles. The Combat Talon series is powered by the Allison series T56-A-15 turboprop engines, two mounted to each wing high and away from ground activity when landed. Entry is available through the large rear-opening cargo door and the cargo hold can sustain personnel in the following numbers:

MC-130E: 53 troops OR 26 paratroopers PLUS standard crew of 9 personnel.
MC-130H: 77 troops OR 52 paratroopers. This variant is also listed to carry some 57 medical litter patients in place of operational forces personnel PLUS standard crew of 7 personnel.

The MC-130 maintains an operational range of up to 4,344 kilometers, though this can be made indefinite with inflight refueling capabilities. Crews are aided by full terrain avoidance radar systems, all-weather capabilities and global positioning systems and both aircraft feature extensive systems designed to identify and react to any potential threats to the aircraft from ground forces.

the MC-130E appeared in 1966, seeing combat action in the skies over Vietnam. This system was also present in the unsuccessful operation to free American hostages held in Iran in 1980. Later, the system served Airborne Ranger operatives well in the war in Grenada of 1983, in the first Persian Gulf War and, more recently, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The MC-130H began operating in 1992 and has seen action in Liberia, Republic of the Congo, Kosovo/Bosnia and in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Besides serving special forces and non-combatants alike, the MC-130 Combat Talon can also deliver bombs from the rear cargo hold, leaflets and can provide inflight refueling services to other aircraft.

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Lockheed MC-130H Combat Talon II Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1966
Type: Special Forces Transport Aircraft
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Lockheed Martin - USA
Production Total: 30

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 7
Overall Length: 99.74 feet (30.4 meters)
Overall Width: 132.55 feet (40.40 meters)
Overall Height: 38.39 feet (11.70 meters)

Weight (Empty): 77,162 lb (35,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 153,772 lb (69,750 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 4 x Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines delivering 4,910 shaft horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 300 mph (482 kph; 260 knots)
Maximum Range: 2,699 miles (4,344 km)
Service Ceiling: 32,808 feet (10,000 meters; 6.21 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,830 feet-per-minute (558 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload


Global Operators / Customers

United States

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

C-130 "Hercules" - Base Airframe
MC-130E - Special Forces conversion aircraft based on the C-130 airframe; appeared in 1966.
MC-130H - "Improved" MC-130; crew decreased by two; redesigned flight deck; updated controls and systems; increased passenger capacity; multi-role operation; appeared in 1992; 7 crew.