The Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 193rd Special Operations Wing is undergoing a major transformation affecting its primary mission and aircraft.
Although it will remain assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the Wing and its 193rd Special Operations Squadron is currently transitioning from operating the EC-130J Commando Solo III aircraft to the MC-130J Commando II. Based at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pennsylvania, the Wing has been tasked with the psychological operations (PSYOP) role since 1968.
The Wing closed this 54-year chapter in its history on September 17, when an EC-130J delivered its final broadcast to spectators at the Community Days Air Show at Lancaster Airport, in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Carried out by EC-130J (serial 00-1934), the mission coincided with the 193rd Special Operation Squadron’s final Commando Solo III training flight.
The EC-130J, which formally entered service in September 2004, is the only Military Information Support Operations (MISO) broadcasting platform operated by the US military. The Commando Solo transmits air-to-ground civil affairs broadcasts through a variety of communications channels, including AM/FM radio, high frequency radio and television and military communications bands.
Although it was assigned seven EC-130Js, only three of the aircraft were configured for the Commando Solo MISO mission. The unit’s other Super Hercules’ were configured as EC-130J(SJ) ‘Super Js’ and are tasked with ‘SOF FLEX’ mobility missions, which include Special Operations Forces Airlift (SOFLIFT), Military Free-Fall (MFF), Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS), and MISO leaflet drops.
The MC-130J flies all-weather clandestine, or low-visibility, single or multi-ship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces missions intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories. Included are airdrop or airland deliveries and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft. As a secondary mission the MC-130J also conducts MISO leaflet drops.
Then known as the 193rd Tactical Electronics Warfare Group, the unit initially operated the Lockheed EC-121S Coronet Solo aircraft in the PSYOP role beginning in 1968. The Super Constellations were replaced by the EC-130E Volant Solo - later Commando Solo II version of the Hercules in 1977. Since receiving the EC-130J, the 193rd was deployed in support of every major US military operation including Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan); Iraqi Freedom (Iraq); Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector (Libya); Inherent Resolve (Iraq, Syria and Libya); Resolute Support/Freedom’s Sentinel (Afghanistan); Secure Tomorrow and Unified Response (both in Haiti). The uniqueness of the mission resulted in the unit being called “the most deployed unit in the Air National Guard.”
The Wing will be phasing out all of its EC-130Js over the next two years, with the Commando Solo III models being the first to leave the unit.