Heavy Hitting

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Amanda Ling
  • 920th Rescue Wing

The 39th Rescue Squadron etched out a small but heavy piece of history on Sept. 17 with their first-ever heavy equipment airdrop.

“Thanks to improved HC-130J capabilities, the 39th has added a new mission set of heavy equipment airdrops to our list of proficiencies,” said Capt. Michael, 39th RQS pilot. “Going from the legacy to the J model is like going from a flip phone to an iPhone 11. The J-model’s effectiveness and technology is far more advanced, providing increased potential all around. There is just no comparison.”

The 920th Rescue Wing’s 39th RQS was home to the now fully retired HC-130P/N Combat King aircraft which was limited in airdrop capabilities.

According to Stephanie Stinn, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics communications, the new HC-130J outperforms all older C-130s in combat operations by at least a 2:1 margin and demonstrate reliability that far exceeds most other military aircraft with average mission capable rates routinely in the 80 to 90 percent range.

The HC-130J is equipped with rear access ramps that can be lowered inflight. This advantage allows large platforms to be rolled out the back of the aircraft. Parachutes were deployed behind the aircraft which pulled the load out and cargo parachutes then deployed to slow the load down to the ground.

“The maximum airdrop load weight hasn’t changed from the legacy model to the J,” Master Sgt. Dean, 39th RQS loadmaster, explained. “However, the J has a dual rail system that locks the pallets into place, allowing us the ability to airdrop extremely heavy loads should the need arise.”

Developed in World War II as a solution to resupply inaccessible troops, the airdrop is a type of airlift operation still in use to this day. Early airdrops were conducted by dropping or pushing padded bundles from the aircraft to their targets below. As these airlift operations evolved, these padded bundles were fitted with parachutes allowing for softer landings.

“The J model is a much, much more adequate platform,” said Maj. Patrick, 39th RQS pilot. “Its advanced avionics allows us to airdrop cargo, such as heavy equipment, without a need for a navigator making us more agile and lethal.”

Not only does the heavy equipment airdrop improve efficiency in combat situations, it allows the Rescue Wing to continue its mission in peacekeeping operations such as hurricane relief. More food and medical supplies can be airdropped from the aircraft.

The 920th RQW is the only wing in the Air Force Reserve Command that trains and equips its Airmen who carry out its mission, to search for, locate and recover U.S. Armed Forces personnel during military operations. Air Force rescue is the only DoD entity specifically organized, trained and equipped to conduct personnel recovery operations into hostile or denied areas as a primary mission.

The HC-130J is a result of the HC/MC-130 recapitalization program and replaces Air Combat Command's aging HC-130P/N fleet as the dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s a four-engine turboprop tactical transport aircraft with hose and drogue aerial refueling, airdrop, and command and control capabilities. Modifications include the ability to receive fuel in-flight, a nose-mounted electro-optical/infrared sensor and a combat systems operator flight deck station. The HC/MC-130J brings additional countermeasure dispensers, high-altitude ramp and door hydraulics, an additional (fourth) flight deck crew member station, crash-worthy loadmaster scanner-position seats, provisions for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures and more.

*Editor’s Note: Last names have been omitted for operational security.