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Lockheed MC-130J Commando II

Special Forces In-Flight Refueler / General Transport Aircraft [ 2011 ]

The Lockheed MC-130J is an in-flight refueling platform intended for Special Forces operations.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/29/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Lockheed MC-130J "Commando II" is an in-flight refueling platform of the United States Air Force, intended to refuel helicopter and tilt-rotor units of Special Operations Forces(SOF). The MC-130J is an offshoot of the long-running Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" transport and retains much of the form and function of its original design. The MC-130J has introduced Head-Up Displays (HUDs) for the pilot positions, an all-glass cockpit, new turboprop engines and air-refueling pods as part of its modification. The Commando II is specially designed for low-altitude operations over enemy territory and is typically flown as a night intruder to keep a low profile and increase crew survivability. The USAF expects to stock some 37 MC-130J units by the end of 2017 while the MC-130J line is to replace the aged stock of MC-130E and MC-130P aircraft. First delivery of the J-model was in 2011 to Cannon AFB of New Mexico.

Beyond its refueling capabilities, the MC-130J can also be called on to resupply SOF forces and also extract / airdrop combat elements and needed supplies. It retains the cargo hauling capability of the C-130 as well as its rear-mounted powered door. The high-wing design provides excellent control at low altitudes and low speeds while also allowing for rough-field landings when required. The heart of the C-130 design is Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) and the MC-130J keeps this quality available. For its primary refueling role, MC-130J is outfitted with four underwing pods, two to each wing and set between the two engines per wing.

The MC-130J is typically crewed by five to include two pilots, a Combat Systems Officer (CSO) and a pair of Loadmasters for cargo management. The cockpit provides access to thirteen full-color Multi-Function Display (MFD) units as well as a digital autopilot feature. A color radar aids in mission awareness as does a digital Moving Map Display (MMD). Internal systems have been improved over previous C-130 iterations in the way of deicing units, fuel efficiency and general cargo management. GPS navigation, as well as inertial navigation, are standard as is an Electro-Optical / Infrared (EO/IR) system. Voice and data are transmitted and secured through a SATCOM arrangement.

Dimensions of the MC-130J include a wingspan of 132 feet, 7 inches, a length of 97 feet, 9 inches and a height of 38 feet, 10 inches. Maximum take-off weight is 164,000 lbs.

Key to the success of the newer MC-130J is its 4 x Rolls-Royce AE-2100D3 turboprop engines. These drive six-blade composite propellers at 4,590 shaft horsepower. Combined with its robust airframe, the Commando II can reach speeds of 415 miles per hour up to a ceiling of 28,000 feet. Range is listed at 3,000 miles, giving the Commando Ii a broad reach for special forces missions.

The MC-130J Commando II has already seen combat operational service with special forces elements since its introduction.©MilitaryFactory.com
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May 2020 - An MC-130J Commando II aircraft was used during in-air tests / evaluations by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to release (simulated) cruise missiles from the rear-facing cargo ramp.

July 2020 - Sierra Nevada has been given a $700 million USD contract related to the development of radio frequency-based countermeasures for the MC-130J Commando II and AC-130J Ghostrider special mission platforms.


Lockheed Martin - USA
United States
Operators National flag of the United States
Service Year
United States
National Origin
Project Status

Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
Dedicated or converted airframe used to deliver fuel to awaiting allied aircraft.
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Serving Special Forces / Special Operations elements and missions.

97.8 ft
(29.80 meters)
132.5 ft
(40.40 meters)
38.9 ft
(11.85 meters)
85,980 lb
(39,000 kilograms)
Empty Weight
164,024 lb
(74,400 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
+78,044 lb
(+35,400 kg)
Weight Difference

4 x Rolls-Royce AE-2100D3 turboprop engines developing 4,590 horsepower.
416 mph
(670 kph | 362 knots)
Max Speed
28,002 ft
(8,535 m | 5 miles)
3,001 miles
(4,830 km | 2,608 nm)

MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030


MC-130J "Commando II" - Base Series Designation
C-130J-SOF - Special Operationa platform being offered for export.

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Image of the Lockheed MC-130J Commando II
Front view of an MC-130J Commando II; Image courtesy of the USAF.

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