Since the arrival of the first HC-130J Combat King II to D-M Nov. 15, the men and women of the 563rd Rescue Group have been working to get the aircraft to full-operational capability.
The 79th Rescue Squadron is preparing to take the new HC-130J Combat King II on its first ever deployment. They will be rotating personnel and aircraft during the next 20 months for this deployment in support of contingency operations.
“This upcoming deployment represents the culmination of years of work and training,” said Lt. Col. Michael Guischard, 79th RQS commander. “The men and women of the 79th RQS are ready to apply their skills in the new aircraft on the battlefield to save lives.”
Gen. Mike Hostage, Air Combat Command commander, declared initial operational capability of the HC-130J Combat King II effective April 25, with no restrictions.
The 79th RQS recently converted from the HC-130P Combat King to the HC-130J Combat King II. The new $66 million aircraft has enhanced safety, avionic features and air conditioning system, expanded cargo handling and is more fuel efficient. It can also give and receive in-flight refueling.
It normally takes 12 months to get a new aircraft ready to deploy. The 563rd RQG has done it in 10 months.
“The most rewarding part of preparing the new aircraft for the deployment has been seeing everyone come together with the limited resources to get the squadron ready in a short amount of time,” said Tech. Sgt. John Lemoine, 79th RQS loadmaster.
While the aircraft may look like a C-130 on the outside, the new technology contained inside dictated an extensive nine- to ten-month training program.
To prepare the new aircraft for this deployment, members of the 79th RQS had to go on temporary duty to Little Rock AFB, Ark. and Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Two crew positions were removed in the new aircraft. The aircrew had to learn the differences in the aircraft by hands-on experience. The preparations included testing the new features, rewriting publications and post flight meetings were conducted to discuss lessons learned.
“The most significant thing that we had to do was training,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Hammonds, 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent. “The initial cadre of trainers were assigned to the test and evaluation team. Once we successfully tested the initial aircraft, we came to the operational squadrons to form the core of expertise for others to learn.”
The 79th RQS now has six HC-130J Combat King II aircraft in their inventory, with one additional aircraft assigned for operational testing.
The HC-130J conducts missions from homeland defense to contingency operations. The aircraft conducts civilian and combat search and rescue, medical evacuations, disaster and humanitarian relief, security cooperation and non-combatant evacuation.
In order to conduct these missions, the 79th RQS trains to contour low-level operations, conduct airdrops of equipment and personnel to isolated and injured personnel, provide refueling to helicopters and communications for the search and rescue task force.
According to the Air Force fact sheet, the HC-130J Combat King II, along with the HC-130 legacy fleet, is the U.S. Air Force’s only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform. HC-130Js are currently flown by ACC and Air Education and Training Command.
“The 79th RQS was selected to receive the first HC-130J Combat King II because they had the oldest C-130s in ACC and the Air Force’s personnel recovery function was recognized as a mission area in dire need of recapitalization,” Guischard said.