The MC-130J Commando II fleet is finally on track to achieve all-weather terrain following capability to take over from the legacy MC-130H Combat Talon II. “We had fits and starts on that” but decided to use the Silent Knight Terrain Following/Terrain Avoidance radar currently used by the Army, Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said at AWS16 on Feb. 26. AFSOC scrapped efforts to use the original AN/APN-241 radar and will now use the same system fielded on the MH-60 and MH-47 special operations helicopters, which also is intended for the CV-22 Osprey. “We’re moving out, and it’s really about making sure that the pilot has the situational awareness” needed to fly behind enemy lines at 200 feet altitude in foul weather, Heithold said. “It’s got to work every time, so we’re being very deliberate about this. … I’m not in a big hurry,” he added. “When you call on us to go get somebody, wherever that may be, we’re not going to face the difficulties that we faced in Iran,” Heithold said, referencing the failed 1980 Iran hostage rescue. AFSOC will retain several legacy MC-130Hs to provide low-altitude, all-weather penetrating capability until the TF/TA radar is fielded on the MC-130J. (Read AFSOC Renaissance in the April issue of Air Force Magazine.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.