As part of the 193rd Special Operations Wing’s (SOW’s) ongoing conversion to the Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II, the unit received the first of its new tactical tanker-transport aircraft on February 2.
The aircraft (serial 08-6206) was flown from Cannon Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico, to Harrisburg Air National Guard Base (ANGB) – part of Harrisburg International Airport – in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where it arrived under the cover of darkness. With this delivery, the 193rd Special Operations Squadron (SOS) – a component of the 193rd SOW – became the first US Air National Guard (ANG) unit to adopt the MC-130J mission.
As a special operations variant of the C-130J family, the Commando II flies clandestine operations associated with the low-altitude refuelling of helicopters and tiltrotors, infiltration and exfiltration of personnel, and resupply missions in hostile environments. The assignment of MC-130Js to the Pennsylvania ANG also marks the first basing of the type in the north-eastern US, bolstering special forces capabilities in the region. Previously, the only combat-coded units to operate the MC-130J in the continental US were based in Florida and New Mexico.
This move marks a distinct change to the 193rd’s mission, as until now, the unit’s primary role had been to operate the EC-130J Commando Solo III, flying psychological warfare missions with the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) only information broadcasting aircraft. In 2022, a Congressional bill approved the divestment of three EC-130Js, with the aircraft delivering its final broadcast during the Community Days Airshow at Lancaster Airport, Pennsylvania, on September 17, 2022. While operations are drawing down for the EC-130J, these aircraft were still noted as active during January 2023.
However, the transition to the MC-130J is not a completely unfamiliar mission set for the 193rd. Alongside their three specialist EC-130Js, the unit operated four EC-130J(SJ)s (Super Js), which were tasked with Special Operations Airlift, military freefall, precision airdrop and leaflet drop operations. These are all roles that can also be carried out by the Commando II.