The U.S. military has thousands of aircraft that can launch attacks and support conventional operations, from the futuristic F-35 and F-22 fighters to the venerable A-10 and AC-130 close air support planes.
When it comes to supporting special operations units, the MC-130 has an essential if little-known role.
MC-130 variants have participated in every major and minor U.S. military campaign since the Vietnam War, backing up special operations units in some of the biggest commando missions.
The first versions of the aircraft flew in the Son Tay prisoner rescue in North Vietnam in 1970. Ten years later, MC-130s participated in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission to rescue American hostages held in Iran.
MC-130s were also part of the first major Delta Force and Ranger mission in Afghanistan in 2001, and an MC-130 was the first aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
From the Jungles of Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, the Air Force began experimenting with using a large transport aircraft to support large commando operations. Helicopters could only lift so much and fly so far.