Military Factory logo
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of AK-47 assault rifle
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of navy warships
Icon of a dollar sign
Icon of military officer saluting

Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow

Special Forces Inflight Refueling Aircraft

Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow

Special Forces Inflight Refueling Aircraft


The MC-130 Combat Shadow support special forces operatives primarily in a night time flying role.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1986
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed Martin - USA
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 98.72 feet (30.09 meters)
WIDTH: 132.55 feet (40.4 meters)
HEIGHT: 38.39 feet (11.7 meters)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 153,772 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines delivering 4,910 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 289 miles-per-hour (465 kilometers-per-hour; 251 knots)
RANGE: 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers; 3,476 nautical miles)
CEILING: 32,808 feet (10,000 meters; 6.21 miles)


Series Model Variants
• C-130 "Hercules" - Basic Transport Airframe
• MC-130 - Special Forces Series Multi-Purpose Platform.
• MC-130E - 1966-era Special Forces Insertion / Extraction / Supply Drop aircraft.
• MC-130H - 1980-era "improved" MC-130E system; updated avionics; broadened role aircraft.
• HC-130N/P - Initial MC-130P system designation; "H" designation is now relegated to rescue and recovery systems and not special operations role.
• MC-130P - Special Operations Command tanker fleet designation.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow Special Forces Inflight Refueling Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 9/2/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Lockheed MC-130P "Combat Shadow" debuted with American forces in the Vietnam War when it was known under the designation of HC-130P. The series went on to number 28 aircraft and its role evolved from Search and Rescue, Command and Control and aerial refueling to aerial refueling and support of Special Operations Forces (SOF) as the MC-130P in 1986. The MC-130P maintains an active status in the United States Air Force inventory though it is slated to be replaced by the incoming MC-130J "Commando II" model in the same role. The J-model debuted in 2011 and is expected to reach a fleet strength of 37 by the end of 2017.

As with other special forces aircraft, the MC-130P is expected to undertake rather dangerous, low-altitude sorties during night hours in support for SOF. This allows the system to refuel SOF aircraft, extract/insert SOF elements or air drop needed supplies and equipment. Underwing pods allow the aircraft to supply fuel to awaiting helicopters or tilt-rotor aircraft.

The MC-130P retains much of the form and function of the original C-130 "Hercules" line including its high-wing mounting, four engine turboprop arrangement and tail vertical tail fin. The rear of the fuselage is raised to provide the needed access to the cargo hold which is facilitated through a large powered rear door. The undercarriage is rather short which gives the aircraft a very low presence when on the ground yet it is robust enough for rough-field operations and Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) procedures.

The USAF operates the P-models across three operational squadrons and a training group. An additional four are operated through the Air National Guard.

The Combat Shadow is powered by four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines with two mounted on each wing. The system is crewed by eight personnel and has a listed ceiling of 33,000 feet with a top speed of nearly 300 miles per hour. Range is listed as past 4,000 miles. The Combat Shadow was first deployed into active service in 1986 and has served in conflicts such as Panama, Desert Storm, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Zaire, and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom).

The MC-130P is fitted with a myriad of systems that help the crew work in day/night operations and can detect and react to enemy ground weapons systems. Systems include a Head-Up Display (HUD), Night Vision (NV), Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation, and Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) for threat detection. As well as delivering fuel to friendly special operations aircraft of both the United States Army and Air Force, the MC-130P can itself receive in-flight refueling from other tanker aircraft. Fourteen such MC-130P models are modified in this fashion.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (289mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (27)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

Site Disclaimer  |  Privacy Policy  |  Cookies  |  Site Map Site content ©2003-, All Rights Reserved.

The "Military Factory" name and logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world.

Facebook Logo YouTube Logo