The HC-130P/N is an extended-range, combat search and rescue version of the C-130 Hercules transport. Its mission is extend the range of combat search and rescue helicopters by providing air refueling in hostile or contested airspace if required.

Secondary mission capabilities include performing tactical delivery via airdrop or airland 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 approaches and unimproved airfield operations at day or night, using night vision goggles. A team of three pararescue specialists, 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. Ongoing modifications include night vision goggle-compatible interior and exterior lighting, a personnel locator system compatible with aircrew survival radios, forward-looking infrared systems and advanced integrated radios.

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. 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.

The HC-130P/N is the only dedicated fixed-wing combat search and rescue platform in the Air Force inventory. The 71st and 79th Rescue Squadrons in Air Force Special Operations Command, the 102nd RQS and 210th RQS in the Air National Guard, and the 39th RQS in the Air Force Reserve Command operate the aircraft.

First flown in 1964, the aircraft has served many roles and missions. It was initially modified to conduct search and rescue missions, provide a command and control platform, in-flight-refuel helicopters and carry supplemental fuel for extending range or air refueling.

In October 2003, the continental U.S. search and rescue mission was transferred to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. HC-130s were assigned to Air Combat Command from 1992 to 2003. Previously, they were assigned to the Air Rescue Service as part of Military Airlift Command. They have been deployed to Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Pakistan Saudi Arabia, and Turkey in support of operations Southern and Northern Watch, Allied Force. HC-130s also support continuous alert commitments in Alaska, Iceland and Japan, and provide rescue coverage for space shuttle operations in Florida.

General Characteristics
Primary function: Air refueling for combat search and rescue helicopters
Builder: Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine
Length: 98 feet, 9 inches (30.09 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Speed: 289 miles per hour (464 kilometers per hour) at sea level
Ceiling: 33,000 feet (10,000 meters)
Range: Beyond 4,000 miles (3,478 nautical miles)
Crew: Three officers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator) and seven enlisted (flight engineer, airborne communications specialist, two loadmasters and threepararescuemen)
Unit Cost: $18.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Date Deployed: 1964
Inventory: Active force, 13; ANG, 13; Reserve, 10 

October 2005