Editor’s Note: Just like their brothers and sisters in Air Combat Command and Air Force Global Strike Command, the aviators in AFSOC have been in need of upgrades for platforms for some time. A big first step in the right direction is the introduction of the MC-130J Commando II. It replaces the (much) older MC-130N/P Combat Shadow, designed specifically for low-level aerial refueling of Special Operation Forces vertical (helicopter) and tilt-rotor (Osprey) aircraft and/or infiltration, resupply and exfil. The 17th SOS recently fielded their Commando IIs, and Kadena recently accomplished something not previously done!

Instead of the usual howl of jet engines, members of Kadena Air Base heard the growl of 120 turboprop blades chopping the air as the 17th Special Operations Squadron’s MC-130J Commando IIs dominated the airfield scene Feb. 17.

Within an hour of standing by at stations, the aircraft took to the skies during the Pacific region’s first five-ship formation flight involving the new specialized mobility aircraft.

The formation was part of the 353rd Special Operations Group’s training exercise that tested the 17th SOS and the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron to launch a short-notice, large-scale tasking.

Kadena Launches First MC-130J Five-Ship Formation
Senior Airman Zach Harmon, a 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, observes a 33rd Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk air-to-air refueling during a training exercise Feb. 17, 2016, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The 17th SOS simulated a quick-reaction, full-force sortie that tested the unit’s mobilization of the entire MC-130J fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Peter Reft)

“We routinely fly two ships, but we mobilized five ships to test our ability to generate aircraft in full force, to make sure our maintenance can support that, and to make sure we can do the planning in case we are ever asked to fly a large formation,” said Maj. Brad Talley, the 17th SOS assistant director of operations.

As part of that assessment, team members evaluated their formation flying and short runway landings; combat systems operators tested their cargo air drop timing; and loadmasters tested their cargo delivery system rigging abilities.

“We mobilized all available personnel in the squadron to execute this mission, while all five planes were able to accomplish all cargo drops, land in a small landing zone, maintain formation, and return safely,” Talley said.

See the article in its entirety here.

(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Peter Reft)