The HC-130 is an extended-range, combat search and rescue version of the C-130 Hercules transport. HC-130H versions are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and HC-130N and P models are operated by the U.S. Air Force, who use the aircraft to extend the range of combat search and rescue helicopters by providing air refueling.
The HC-130 can fly in the day against a reduced threat; however, crews normally fly night, low-level, air refueling and airdrop operations using night vision goggles (NVG). It can fly low-level NVG tactical flight profiles to avoid detection. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, crews employ tactics that include incorporating no external lighting or communications, and avoiding radar and weapons detection.
Secondary mission capabilities include performing tactical airdrops of pararescue specialist teams, small bundles, zodiac watercraft, or four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles; and providing direct assistance to a survivor in advance of the arrival of a recovery vehicle. Other capabilities are extended visual and electronic searches over land or water, tactical airborne radar approaches and unimproved airfield operations. A team of three pararescue specialists (PJ's), trained in emergency trauma medicine, harsh environment survival and assisted evasion techniques, is part of the basic mission crew complement.
Combat Air Forces HC-130 aircraft are undergoing extensive modifications. These modifications include night vision goggle-compatible interior and exterior lighting, a personnel locator system compatible with aircrew survival radios, improved digital low-power color radar and forward-looking infrared systems.
In October 2003, the Continental U.S. (CONUS) search and rescue (SAR) mission was transferred to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida. HC-130s were assigned to Air Combat Command (ACC) from 1992 to 2003. Previously, they were assigned to the Air Rescue Service as part of Military Airlift Command (MAC).
In October 2006, all USAF CSAR forces were reassigned back to Air Combat Command. The CONUS SAR mission was also transferred back to ACC. However, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) that had been previously located at McClellan AFB, California and Scott AFB, Illinois under MAC and at Langley AFB, Virginia under ACC, was relocated to Tyndall AFB, Florida under the control of 1st Air Force, ACC's numbered air force for the Air National Guard.
While under AFSOC and since returning to ACC, USAF, AFRC and ANG HC-130s have been deployed to Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Djibouti, and Iraq in support of Operations Southern and Northern Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. HC-130s also support continuous alert commitments in Alaska, and provide rescue coverage for NASA space shuttle operations in Florida.
Aging aircraft, H-60 airframe problems top CSAR deficiencies list.(Air Force plans replacement of its HC-130 search and rescue aircraft and upgrade of HH-60G, CSAR helicopter)
Aug 23, 1995; Aging fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and exterior skin cracks in the Sikorsky HH-60G are among the deficiencies identified by...