“The weapons system that we have that has drawn the highest utilization in terms of crews is the MC-130P, the tankers,” said Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, head of Air Force Special Operations, highlighting the AFSOC airmen most affected by frequent overseas deployments. Wing-box repairs on the MC-130E/H Combat Talon fleet have meant that the remaining MC-130P Combat Shadow and MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft have been shifted to meet operational workloads. MC-130Ws normally tasked with airlift have been shifted to battlefield over-watch and strike roles, leaving the tanker fleet to supply airlift. Speaking Wednesday afternoon during the Four-Star Forum at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Wurster said: “Our tanker force has really done a remarkable job. They’ve surged several times for activities that are going on in Africa.” He added, “People in our line of work are used to being gone a fair amount, but we do have some that I watch.”
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.