Commandos In Transition

Kadena AB, Japan—The 353rd Special Operations Group has received six of its planned 10 MC-130J aircraft, but the group plans to update and hold on to four of the legacy MC-130H aircraft until development and testing is completed on the J-model’s terrain following radar, said Col. William Freeman, commander of the 353rd SOG. The radar, which is housed in the nose of the legacy aircraft, allows pilots to fly low level in poor weather conditions. “We use it a lot,” said Capt. Kyle Mottern, an MC-130 pilot here. The J-models, known as the Commando II, are more reliable, and can fly faster and farther than their legacy counterparts. But newer models aren’t yet equipped with the radar or full defensive capabilities. “It’s a very good aircraft; however, it’s still coming online. It’s in its infancy right now,” said Mottern. Freeman said it’s not yet clear when the SOG will receive its last four J-models, but said it could be several more years. The group will begin sending its remaining H-models to the US in October for modernization, including upgrades to the aircraft’s radios, avionics, and defensive systems, said Freeman. That modernization effort is expected to take “a couple years.” Air Force Special Operations Command is working to recapitalize its legacy MC-130 fleet, eventually acquiring 57 MC-130Js. The last two MC-130Ps operating in the Pacific theater, both from Kadena, retired to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., last year.