All USAF special operations are under the command of AFSOC. AFSOC is an Air Force major command and constitutes the Air Force component of the unified USSOCOM. AFSOC is organized into one active component Special Operations Wing, two active Special Operations Groups, one active Special Tactics Group, and two reserve Special Operations Wings. AFSOC forces are apportioned and assigned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to USSOCOM and theater Commanders in Chief (CINC). AFSOC has OPCON of CONUS-based forces while theater SOCs exercise OPCON of assigned or OCONUS assets. Only USCINCPAC and USCINCEUR have theater assigned AFSOC forces.

Air Force SOF consists of uniquely equipped fixed and rotary wing aircraft operated by highly trained aircrews whose missions include insertion, extraction, resupply, aerial fire support, refueling, combat search and rescue, and PSYOP. Weapons systems operated by AFSOC include:

· MC-130E Combat Talon I

· MC-130H Combat Talon II

· MC-130P Combat Shadow

· AC-130H Spectre Gunship

· AC-130U Spooky II Gunship

· MH-53J Pave Low III

· MH-60G Pave Hawk

· EC-130E Commando Solo

The Special Tactics Group is comprised of Air Force Combat Control, Pararescue and Combat Weather personnel capable of providing terminal guidance for weapons, control of assault zone aircraft, fire support, medical support, and weather support. They also operate expeditionary airfields, conduct classified missions, and support combat rescue missions.

AFSOC Mission

AFSOC is America's specialized air power. It is a step ahead in a changing world, delivering special operations combat power anytime, anywhere. The command is committed to continual improvement to provide Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment and assignment to regional unified commands, conducting the full spectrum of Special Operations principal missions and collateral activities.


The 16 th SOW is located at Hurlburt Field, Florida and is the oldest and most seasoned unit in AFSOC.


The wing's mission is to organize, train, and equip Air Force special operations forces for global employment. The 16th SOW focuses on unconventional warfare, including counterinsurgency and psychological operations during operations other than war.


The 16th SOW is the largest Air Force unit under the Air Force Special Operations Command, the Air Force component of the US Special Operations Command. The 16th SOW deploys with specially trained and equipped forces from each service, working as a team to support national security objectives. The 16th SOW manages a fleet of more than 90 aircraft with a military and civilian work force of nearly 7,000 people. It includes the 6th Special Operations Squadron (SOS), the 4th SOS, the 8th SOS, the 9th SOS, the 15th SOS, the 16th SOS, the 20th SOS and the 55th SOS.

· The 6th Special Operations Squadron is the wing's aviation foreign internal defense (FID) unit. Its members provide US military expertise to other governments in support of their internal defense and development efforts (IDAD).

· The 8th SOS and 15th SOS employ the MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft, respectively, supporting unconventional warfare missions and special operations forces. The MC-130 aircrews work closely with Army and Navy Special Operations Forces. Modifications to the MC-130 allow aircrews to perform clandestine missions minimizing the chances of being detected by hostile radar systems. Both units’ primary missions are day and night, adverse weather, infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces in hostile or denied territory. In addition, the MC-130E Combat Talon I is capable of clandestine penetration of hostile or denied territory to provide aerial refueling of special operations helicopters.

· The 9th SOS, at nearby Eglin AFB, flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow tanker for worldwide clandestine aerial refueling of special operations helicopters. It has the additional capability of infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces by airdrop or airland tactics.

· The 4th SOS and 16th SOS fly the AC-130U and AC-130H Spectre gunships, respectively.

Unique equipment on these modified C-130s enables crews to provide highly accurate firepower in support of both conventional and unconventional forces, day or night. Primary missions include close air support, armed reconnaissance, and air interdiction. Other missions include perimeter defense, forward air control, night search and rescue, surveillance, and airborne command and control.

· The 20th SOS employs the MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter. Its specialized mission consists of day or night, all-weather, low-level penetration of denied territory to provide infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, or fire support for elite air, ground, and naval forces. The unique capabilities of the MH-53J permit operations from unprepared landing zones. · The 55th SOS flies the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. Its mission is to provide a rapidly deployable, worldwide, multimission and combat rescue capability for wartime special operations and peacetime contingency tasking. It is used to infiltrate, resupply, and exfiltrate US and allied special operations forces during long-range, low-level penetrations of hostile or denied territory at night.


The 352 nd SOG at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, is the designated Air Force component for Special Operations Command Europe. Its squadrons are the 7 th SOS, which flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II; the 21 st SOS, equipped with the MH-53J Pave Low III; the 67 th SOS, with the MC-130P Combat Shadow; and the 321 st Special Tactics Squadron.


The mission of the 352 nd SOG is to act as the focal point for all US Air Force special operations activities throughout the European and Central Commands theaters of operation. The group is prepared to conduct a variety of high priority, low-visibility missions supporting US and allied special operations forces throughout the European theater during peacetime, joint operations exercises and combat operations. It develops and implements peacetime and wartime contingency plans to effectively use fixed wing, helicopter and personnel assets to conduct infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of US and allied special operations forces. AFSOC forces provide precise, reliable and timely support to special operations worldwide.


The 352 nd SOG is the Air Force component for Special Operations Command Europe, a sub-unified command of the US European Command. The 352 nd SOG has three flying squadrons, a maintenance and tactical communications squadron and a special tactics squadron. The organizations are:

· The 7 th SOS - MC-130H Combat Talon II. Mission is identical to that of the 15 th SOS.

· The 21 st SOS - MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter. Mission is identical to that of the 20 th SOS.

· The 67 th SOS - MC-130P. Mission is identical to that of the 9 th SOS.

· The 352 nd Maintenance Squadron is responsible for maintenance of assigned fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

· The 321st Special Tactics Squadron pararescuemen and combat controllers provide for the establishment of drop zones, landing zones, air traffic control, combat medical care and evacuation and combat search and rescue for fixed and rotary wing assets. In addition combat controllers trained in SOTAC conduct terminal guidance of fires delivered by fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Also, the 321 st has combat weathermen assigned to provide weather support for Air Force and Army special operations.


The 353 rd SOG, with headquarters at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is the Air Force component for Special Operations Command Pacific. The 353 rd SOG is composed of three flying squadrons and the 320 th STS. The 320 th and two of the flying squadrons are located at Kadena Air Base: the 1st SOS which flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II, and the 17 th SOS, which flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow. The third flying squadron is located at Osan Air Base, Korea; the 31 st SOS which flies the MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter.


The group's mission is to act as the focal point for all US Air Force special operations activities throughout the Pacific. The group is prepared to conduct a variety of high-priority, low-visibility air support missions for joint and allied special operations forces in the region. It maintains a worldwide mobility commitment, participates in theater exercises, and supports humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The group develops wartime and contingency plans to effectively use the full range of helicopter and fixed wing capabilities, to include infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of US and allied special operations forces. The primary peacetime responsibility of the 353 rd SOG is to oversee the training and maintenance of its assigned units. The group ensures the combat readiness of these units through comprehensive involvement in numerous theater and joint chiefs of staff-directed military exercises and training activities throughout the Pacific.


The 353 rd SOG comprises the US Air Force's special operations air arm in the US Pacific Command. The commander is designated Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Pacific, a sub-unified command to the Special Operations Command, Pacific. The 353 rd SOG has three flying squadrons, a maintenance and tactical communications squadron and special tactics squadrons. These organizations are:

· The 1 st SOS - MC-130H Combat Talon II, Kadena AB, Japan. Mission is identical to that of the 15 th SOS.

· The 17 th SOS - MC-130P Combat Shadow, Kadena AB, Japan. Mission is identical to that of the 9 th SOS.

· The 31 st SOS, Osan Air Base, Korea, MH-53J Pave Low III. Mission is identical to that of the 20 th SOS.

· The 320 th Special Tactics Squadron pararescuemen and combat controllers provide for the establishment of drop zones, landing zones, air traffic control, combat medical care and evacuation, and combat search and rescue for fixed and rotary wing assets. In addition combat controllers trained in SOTAC conduct terminal guidance of fires delivered by fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Also, the 320 th has combat weathermen assigned to provide weather support for Air Force and Army special operations.


The 720 th STG, with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, FL, has special operations combat controllers, pararescuemen, and combat weathermen who work jointly in Special Tactics Teams (STT). There are six Special Tactics Squadrons (STS) and one Combat Weather Squadron. The 320 th STS at Kadena AB, Japan and the 320 th STS at RAF Mildenhall, England are assigned to and under the operational control of the 353 rd and the 352 nd Special Operations Groups respectively. The 720 th also includes the 10 th Combat Weather Squadron with headquarters at Hurlburt Fld, FL, and detachments co-located with US Army Special Operations Command units.


AFSOC gains three Air Reserve Component units when the organizations are mobilized. One is the 919th Special Operations Wing (AFRES) at Duke Field, FL. The 711 th SOS flies the MC- 130E Combat Talon I, while the 5 th SOS flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow. The second is the 193 rd Special Operations Group (ANG) at Harrisburg International Airport, PA., which flies the EC-130E Commando Solo. The third component unit is the 123 rd Special Tactics Flight (ANG) at Standiford Field, KY.

The 919th Special Operations Wing (AFRES)

The 919 th SOW at Duke Field, Fla., is the only Air Force Reserve special operations wing. When mobilized, it reports to Air Force Special Operations Command. The 919 th SOW trains Air Force reservists in MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft operations, maintenance and support functions to accomplish special operations. The 919 th reports to the Air Force Reserve's Tenth Air Force at Bergstrom AFB, TX. The 919th SOW has more than 1,400 reservists and full-time civilian employees assigned. Subordinate units of the 919 th are:

· The 711 th SOS transitioned from the AC-130A Spectre gunship to the MC-130E Combat Talon I beginning in September 1995. The new mission calls on the squadron to perform specialized day or night low-level delivery of troops or cargo into denied or hostile areas.

· The 5 th SOS, which activated in December 1994, flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow tanker.

It flies clandestine missions into sensitive territory to provide air refueling for special operations aircraft. A secondary wartime mission for the Combat Shadow includes airdrop of small bundles and special operations teams.

193rd Special Operations Group (ANG)

The 193 rd SOG, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, Harrisburg International Airport, Pa., is the Air Force's sole asset for providing airborne radio and television broadcast missions. It is the only ANG unit assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command. The Guard unit falls under AFSOC when mobilized for wartime action, humanitarian efforts or contingencies. The 193 rd provides an airborne platform for virtually any contingency, including state or national disasters or other emergencies, on a moment's notice, anywhere in the world. The 193 rd Special Operations Group performs this unique mission with six specially configured EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft. A secondary mission assigned to the 193 rd is providing airlift for Air Force Intelligence Agency missions with four modified EC-130Es.

Air Force Special Operations Forces (AFSOF) Logistics

AFSOF logistics support is focused on keeping the aircraft flying, just as in the conventional Air Force. Logistics and maintenance emphasis is placed on the cycle of launch, recovery, service, rapid repair, and re-launch. The cycle may be compressed into relatively short time periods, 12 hours or less. This places a significant burden on the support infrastructure, given the level of sophistication of the avionics and the requirement to operate from austere locations.

The parent wing, group and/or squadron are responsible for determining equipment, spares, and personnel requirements. This determination will be based on the length of the deployment and amount of logistic support available at the deployed location. Once deployed, the AFSOC logistics officer will coordinate and manage logistic support, vehicle requirements, POL, billeting, messing, and establish connectivity with the Theater and CONUS logistic support systems.

If time permits prior to deployment, the wing or group logistic planning cell will develop a plan to support deployed flying operations and concomitant logistics objectives. Short term employment will normally be supported by drawing from readiness spares packages. Longer term employments will be supported by established supply lines.


These aircraft are equipped with in-flight refueling equipment, terrain-following, terrain- avoidance radar, an inertial and GPS navigation system, and a high-speed aerial delivery system. Some MC-130Es are also equipped with the surface-to-air Fulton recovery and helicopter air refueling systems.


The mission of the MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130H Combat Talon II is to provide global, day, night, and adverse weather capability to airdrop and airland personnel and equipment in support of US and allied special operations forces. The MC-130 conducts infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, psychological operations, and aerial reconnaissance into hostile or denied territory using airland and/or airdrop. Both Combat Talons are capable of inflight refueling, giving them an extended range limited only by crew endurance and availability of tanker support. The MC-130E Combat Talon I is capable of air refueling helicopters in support of extended helicopter operations. MC-130 missions may be accomplished either single- ship or in concert with other special operations assets in varying multi-aircraft scenarios. Combat Talons are able to airland/airdrop personnel/ equipment on austere, marked and unmarked LZ/DZs, day or night. MC-130 missions may require overt, clandestine or low visibility operations.


The special navigation and aerial delivery systems are used to locate small drop zones and deliver people or equipment with greater accuracy and at higher airspeeds than possible with a standard C-130E/H aircraft. The following equipment has been installed on the standard C-130E/

H aircraft to comprise the major components of the MC-130 aircraft configuration:

· Terrain-Following/Terrain-Avoidance Radar (TF/TA)

· Precision Ground Mapping Radar (PGM)

· Precision Navigation System (INS, Doppler and GPS)

· Automatic Computed Air Release Point System (AUTOCARP)

· Electronic Countermeasures (ECM)

· Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM)

· High Speed Low-Level Aerial Delivery System (HSLLADS)

· Container Release System (CRS)

· Ground-to-Air Responder/Interrogator (GAR/I)/MC-130E

· PPN-19 Beacon/MC-130H

· Inflight refueling, receiver operations

· Secure voice HF, UHF, VHF-FM and SATCOM radios

· Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)

· Helicopter refueling operations (MC-130E aircraft only)

· Internal fuel tanks (Benson tanks)

General Planning Factors

· MC-130 missions are normally flown at night using a high-low-high altitude profile. The high altitude portion is generally flown prior to penetrating and after exiting the target area. This portion of the flight will be flown at an average ground speed of 260 knots and at an altitude which minimizes fuel consumption and enemy detection. The aircraft will descend to low-level, terrain-following altitudes to penetrate hostile territory. Mission success may require the flight to be conducted at the lowest possible altitude consistent with flying safety, and at a ground speed between 220 and 260 knots. Night vision goggles (NVGs) may be used for night operations.

· Aircraft range depends upon several factors, including configuration, payload, length of time spent low-level, enroute winds, and weather. For planning purposes, range (without refueling, 2 hours low-level) is 2800nm. Range of the aircraft with inflight refueling is limited only by crew limitations and availability of tanker support. Load capabilities are dependent on aircraft configuration, fuel load, and operating altitude.

· Mission duration will depend on aircraft basing location, aircraft configuration, crew composition, target location, availability of tanker support, and routing required for successful mission accomplishment.

· Crew duty day varies for basic crews and augmented crews.

· The Combat Talon is not a rapid response force. Missions deep into heavily defended enemy territory require extensive preflight planning. Therefore, exercise contingency operations require at least 72 hours prior notification to mission execution.

· MC-130 aircrews accomplish drops on drop zones with no markings or communications. If commanders agree to use marked drop zones, reception committee personnel must fully coordinate with the aircrew on type markings to be used, configuration of the drop zone, method of authentication and release point determination. The most frequent cause of mission abort is lack of coordination or confusion as to correct marking procedures. Placement and markings types are outlined in AFI 13-217.

· Not all aircrew members are qualified in all employment events. Also, the aircraft can be configured for several different employment events or combinations of events. Therefore, the employment scenario must be known prior to deployment to determine crew and aircraft mission configuration/equipment requirements.

· Terrain-following will be degraded during moderate to heavy showers/thunderstorms.

· Accuracy of airdrops accomplished using onboard navigational equipment (AUTOCARP) is degraded by inaccuracies in DZ coordinates, lack of radar update targets, and a non-operational INS.


These heavily armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather. Spectre has an impressive combat history. During Vietnam, gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions. AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. This enabled the successful assault of Point Salines airfield via airdrop and airland of friendly forces.

Gunships had a starring role during Operation Just Cause in Panama by destroying Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities by surgical employment of ordnance in an urban environment. As the only close air support platform in the theater, Spectre was credited with saving many friendly lives.


The AC-130 Gunship is a basic C-130 modified with side mounted guns and various sensors that make it highly adaptable to a variety of special missions. The Gunship can provide sustained and surgically precise firepower in a variety of scenarios. Within permissive environments, the AC-l30 is effective in the following roles:

· Close Air Support (CAS)

· Interdiction

· Armed Reconnaissance

· Point Defense

· Escort (Convoy, Naval, Train, Rotary Wing)

· Surveillance

· Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR)

· Landing/Drop Zone (LZ/ DZ) Support

· Limited Airborne Command and Control

The side-firing gunship delivers ordnance while in a pylon turn around the target. Targets are visible and can be attacked throughout the entire orbit and attack run-in headings are usually not desired. The gunship is particularly effective at troops in contact (TIC) fire support.


Firing altitude depends on terrain, threat environment, and weather. Gun selection depends on target type and damage desired. To limit collateral damage, a live-fire area may be required to boresight weapons prior to employment. The gunship weapons do not have a hard-kill capability against heavy armor or bunkers. However, the 105mm has Superquick fuses with both point detonation and 0.05 sec delay, concrete penetrators, and proximity fuses for airburst. All 20mm, 25mm, and 40mm have point detonate fuses.

Weapons Delivery

Training: No-fire headings may be imposed or may be established by the aircrew, due to ordnance ricochet fans when the target is between the gunship and the friendly position.

· Fire No Closer Than:

· 500 meters with the 20mm/25mm/40mm

· 650 meters with the 105mm

· No Fire Headings Closer Than:

· 1600 meters with the 20mm

· 2000 meters with the 25mm

· 950 meters with the 40mm

· 700 meters with the 105mm


The ground forces commander must accept responsibility each time ordnance is requested inside of the Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manual (JMEM) Danger Close range.

· JMEM Danger Close Range for the 20mm/25mm/40mm: inside 125 meters

· JMEM Danger Close Range for the 105mm: inside 200 meters

Aircraft Comparison

Although the AC-130H and AC-130U use very dissimilar avionics and other systems, fire support to the ground party is generally comparable. The capabilities of the AC-130U will not be required for most fire support missions, but provide benefits under certain circumstances. The following describes some of the most important employment differences:

· The strike radar gives the AC-130U improved adverse weather capability.

· The AC-130Us increased fire control accuracy results in better hit performance against point targets. This does not appreciably change the extent of collateral damage.

· Dual target attack allows the AC-130U to service two targets simultaneously. Fairly

restrictive parameters must be met to employ this technique. Crew restrictions also apply.

· The 25mm gun on the AC-130U can be brought to bear quickly because it is trainable, and can be employed throughout much of the gunship flight envelope. The 25mm is only effective against soft targets. Portions of the 25mm gun system are still under development, and this weapon is not as reliable as a mature system.

· The pressurization system on the AC-130U improves deployability and range.

· The AC-130U sensor system is still evolving. The ALLTV is superior to the LLLTV on the AC-130H, but the IR on the AC-130H is better than the IR on the AC-130U. Upgrades to the IR on both aircraft are scheduled to occur within a couple of years. The AC-130H has already received 2 major IR upgrades since 1990.

· The defensive avionics on the AC-130U are generally slightly better than on the AC-130H, but in certain threat environments the AC-130H is at least equal. Detailed threat analysis must be accomplished for specific missions.

· PPN-19 and SST-181 can be used with both the AC-130E and U. The AC-130H is compatible with the small PRD-7880 Tactical Electromagnetic Impulse Generator (TEMIG).

Limited Threat Capability

· Mission success is largely determined by the threat.

· The AC-l30 operates best during cover of darkness. It is extremely vulnerable during daylight operation and is most suited for operations in a low threat environment. By operating over an overcast, the AC-130U can degrade daylight threats, but must rely on the radar as its only sensor.

· Mission execution and desired objectives are seriously degraded by radar guided anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles, and some IR MANPAD systems. If radar threats are known or suspected, preemptive jamming or SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) is required. SEAD is preferable.

· Certain threats may dictate higher employment altitudes. This should be considered in mission planning, as sensor resolution decreases with altitude. As range increases fire control accuracy degrades slightly, reducing the gunships ability to hit point targets.

· The threat environment limits the use of laser illuminators (the "BURN"), as it illuminates both the aircraft and the ground party to anyone properly equipped.

Planning Considerations

· All missions benefit from face-to-face briefings, especially fire support missions.

· Common imagery, comm-out procedures, charts, and local operating procedures enhance mission success.

· Normal special operations missions planning-to-execution cycle covers 72 hours, but may be shortened due to specific mission constraints. Normal tactical mission planning- to-execution cycle is approximately 24 hours.

· AC-l30 performance is marginal at altitudes above 15,000 feet MSL due to high gross

weights and aircraft performance limitations.

· AC-l30 operations from Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) with high field elevations and/or high density altitudes require analysis by gunship planners for mission limitations.

· Limited number of aircraft and single home operating location makes covert deployment difficult.

· Large crews and extensive support package contribute to significant mission signature. Unimproved airfields are not acceptable due to high gross weights, performance limitations, and sensitive avionics.

· Gunship weapons have no hard-kill capability against heavy, or reactive armor, reinforced bunkers, etc.

Performance Considerations

· Prime Contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Co.

· Horsepower: 3,750 equivalent shaft power

· Wingspan: 132 ft. 7 in

· Length: 97 ft. 9 in

· Height: 38 ft. 6 in

· Unrefueled range (combat ammo load): AC-130U-2000 NM; AC-130H-1500 NM Unlimited with air refueling

· Unrefueled combat radius (1 hour loiter): 500 NM

· Speed: 250 Knots (True Airspeed) cruise. 300 mph (at sea level)

· Maximum gross weight: 155,000 lbs

· Emergency gross weight (WAR): 175,000 lbs

· Fuel load: 40,000 lbs (Inflight refuelable)

· Fuel type: JP-8

· Fuel consumption: 6,000 pounds per hour. 6,500 during low level


· Crew rest: 12 hours

· Tactical crew duty day: 12 hours. (16 hours with augmentation)

· Crew complement may vary depending on the mission type and duty day. Crew requirements for ferrying are less.

· Minimum tactical crew: AC-130U - 13; AC-130H - 14

· Maximum crew: 21

Time on Station

· Unless continuous surveillance is required, the AC-130 holds outside the target area to limit exposure of the aircraft and the ground party.

· Vulnerability increases with time spent over target, as the element of surprise is lost and

chance for acquisition by the enemy increases.

Weather Capability

· The AC-130U has a good capability to deliver ordnance during adverse weather using the APQ-180 radar. The AC-130H has limited adverse weather capability using its electronic sensors.

· A ground controller may be present to correct the AC-130U gunfire for target, range, and magnetic bearing from the location of a beacon or reference point due to adverse weather. A ground controller is required for AC-130H adverse weather delivery.

· Visual sensors are seriously degraded by weather to include fog, haze, smoke, and clouds.

Marking Devices

Marking devices can expedite identification of friendly forces, improving fire support responsiveness and limiting the exposure time for the gunship. Beacons provide a rapid means to identify and update the friendly position. During instrument meteorological conditions beacons are the only way for the AC-130H to locate friendly positions. Radar reflective items may also be used with the AC-130U radar. These are line-of-sight methods, and are normally used with OFFSET firing mode. Beacon/reference point offsets should not normally exceed 1500 meters (1000 meters for Dual Target Attack - AC-130U only). Offset firing is not as accurate as direct mode of fire and are normally used in poor weather conditions with the ground commander or team leader calling misses and corrections to the aircraft. As a rule, the shorter the offset distance, the more accurate the weapon. The AC-130U can track the PPN-19 and SST-181 beacons using the strike radar. The AC-130H can track the PPN-19, SST-181, PRD-7880 (TEMIG) and personal locator system (PLS) beacons, but TEMIG and PLS are poor for offset firing.

Other Marking Devices

· Strobe Light

· Flashlights And Vehicle Lights

· Fire Flies

· "Chem" Lights

· Reflective Tape

· Pen Gun Flares

· Signaling Mirrors

· Laser pointers (LPL-30, GPC-1a, etc.)

· Tracer Fire

· Mortar/Artillery Marking Rounds

Mission Briefing

· FRIENDLY LOCATION - Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM), range in meters, magnetic bearing from reference point, etc. Include all friendly locations.

· FRIENDLY MARK - Beacons, IR strobe lights, flares, etc.

· TARGET LOCATIONS - UTM coordinates, range and bearing from observer, Target Reference Point (TRP), etc.

· TARGET DESCRIPTIONS - Number and type.

· TARGET MARKING - Sparkle (i.e. LPL-30), tracer, etc.


Close Air Support (CAS) and Troops in Contact (TIC)

The AC-l30 is an excellent low threat, night CAS platform. The gunship can provide surgical fire support with limited collateral damage, and it can remain on station for extended periods of time. The visual sensors and radar (AC-130U) provide real-time reconnaissance of the employment area. Unlike other fixed-wing aircraft, CAS assets which must have qualified forward area controllers (FAC) for ordnance delivery in proximity to friendlies, the AC-130 self-FACs, so ordinance delivery can be controlled by fire support officers, team leaders, etc. Since the AC-130 delivers ordnance through a pylon turn, the target is usually visible and may be engaged throughout the entire orbit. As a result, run-in headings are not appropriate. The first consideration for CAS missions is to positively identify the friendly position. Various marking devices may be used by friendly forces to expedite acquisition. Radio contact with the ground forces will be maintained at all times during firing, unless preplanned comm-out procedures are coordinated in advance. The following CAS guide is a briefing guide designed specifically for the gunship. To reduce communications during preplanned missions, coordinate as much of this information as possible in advance. The J-Fire "nine-line" briefing may be used, but it is inefficient and less desirable.


Air Interdiction is defined as air operations conducted to destroy, neutralize, or delay the enemy's potential before it can be brought to bear effectively against friendly forces. At such distances that detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of friendly forces is not required. The gunship is best suited to strike small targets in a permissive environment where limited collateral damage is required. The gunship's accuracy, low yield munitions, and target identification capability reduces the risk of collateral damage. However, the gunship lacks both great hitting power and area coverage capability, which limits the potential for damage to hardened or large area targets.

Armed Reconnaissance

Armed Reconnaissance is flown with the primary purpose of locating and attacking targets of opportunity (i.e. enemy material, personnel, and facilities) in assigned or general areas or along assigned lines of communication (LOC), and not for the purpose of attacking specific briefed targets. The gunship can effectively search LOCs, however the narrow field of view of the sensors limits the gunship's ability to search large areas. The time required to perform armed reconnaissance must be considered with respect to the threat.

Helicopter, Landing Zone (LZ), and Drop Zone (DZ) Support

The gunship can provide escort, LZ/DZ security, and fire support for helicopter operations. Mission accomplishment is achieved through a joint pre-brief of route, special procedures, and establishment of a communications net (fire support coordination net). The gunship can assist helicopters in search and rescue missions as necessary. Helicopter use of beacons greatly aids in vectoring. The gunship can provide LZ/DZ weather and threat updates to all participating aircraft. The gunship can also destroy unrecoverable loads that have landed off a DZ and should not fall into enemy hands.

Fighter Escort Operations

Fighters can operate with the gunship as part of a strike package. Fighter assets provide additional strike capability with greater standoff, hard-target kill capability, and larger area suppression weapons. Fighters can also provide real time threat suppression in the target area and during enroute portions of the mission. Operations with fighter aircraft require effective teamwork between the dissimilar aircraft and increases the complexity of crew coordination on the gunship. Flexibility and situational awareness must be maintained at all times. The gunship normally acts as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) for its fighter escort, and may be used to control other strike aircraft. The gunship's FAC capabilities include:

· Marking targets with aircraft weapons (sparkling)

· Using natural references such as providing information from visible terrain features, ground markers, or easily distinguished fires in the area

· Designate targets using laser target designator

· Provide strike aircraft with Battle Damage Assessment (BDA)


Point Defense

This mission is essentially a preplanned CAS mission. The situation may allow for in-depth planning and coordination, but procedures are the same as for any CAS scenario.


Another version of CAS is escort. The gunship can provide convoy, naval, train, helicopter escort/vectoring surveillance and limited protection of friendlies from enemy ambush. Communications with the supported commander are essential. Mission accomplishment is achieved through a joint brief of route, special procedures, and establishment of a communications net. Ground parties using electronic beacons greatly aid in force vectoring.


The night capabilities of the gunship, combined with its range and endurance make the gunship a viable reconnaissance platform. The gunship has the capability to record all the sensors, with audio and video imagery. The gunship is more vulnerable to enemy threats than other tactical reconnaissance platforms.

Combat Recovery

The gunship can support combat recovery operations in a permissive environment. These missions include combined operations with helicopters and fighters. Because of the potential complexity of these missions, thorough mission planning is essential.

Limited Airborne Command and Control

The gunship can be used to relay information between ground parties, or as a ground-to-air or air-to-air liaison on a limited basis. Planners must realize that any planned use of the gunship in this capacity could adversely affect the gunship's tactical mission and therefore must be weighed carefully.


AFSOC MC-130P (referred to as the HC-130 prior to 1996) were deployed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Desert Storm. They operated from main bases and remote locations. Their missions included air refueling of special operations forces helicopters over friendly and hostile territory, psychological operations, and leaflet drops.

· Builder: Lockheed

· Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

· Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine

· Length: 98 ft 9 in (30.09 meters)

· Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 meters)

· Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 meters)

· Speed: 289 miles per hour (at sea level)

· Ceiling: 33,000 ft

· Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000

· Range: Beyond 4,000 miles

· Crew: Four officers (pilot, copilot, primary navigator, secondary navigator); four enlisted men (flight engineer, communications systems operator, two loadmasters)

· Air Force Inventory: Active Component 24/Reserve Component 4


The mission of the MC-130P is clandestine formation/single-ship intrusion of hostile territory to provide aerial refueling of special operations helicopters and the infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces by airdrop or airland operations. To perform these missions, the primary emphasis is on night vision goggle (NVG) operations, but they can be accomplished during the day. The MC-130P primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats. Secondary mission capabilities may include airdrop of small special operations teams, small bundles, and combat rubber raiding craft; as well as NVG takeoff and landing procedures, tactical airborne radar approaches, and in-flight refueling as a receiver.


Some aircraft are currently being modified with the Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) system for inflight refueling as a receiver and all aircraft are modified with the self-contained navigation systems (SCNS) and Global Positioning System (GPS). The Special Operations Forces Improvement (SOFI) modification will give the aircraft an NVG HUD, a new modified radar, and a Infrared Detection System (IDS). These modifications will greatly increase the range and navigational accuracy of the MC-130 P. The aircraft normally carries eight crewmembers. Depending on mission profile and duration, additional crewmembers are carried. All crewmembers are NVG/formation and helicopter air refueling qualified. Special qualifications include high altitude low opening (HALO) airdrop, NVG airland, formation lead, inflight refueling (IFR), and Rigging Alternate Method Zodiac (RAMZ).

The following equipment is installed on the MC-130P:

· Inflight refueling system for helicopters

· Inflight refueling, receiver operations (UARRSI)

· Internal fuel tanks (Benson tanks)

· Airborne radar (APN-59D); APN-59E improved radar (SOFI aircraft)

· IFF Radar

· Self Contained Navigation System (SCNS)

· Doppler radar navigation system (APN-147); Doppler velocity sensor (SOFI aircraft)

· Radar warning receiver (ALR-69); ALR-69(V) (SOFI aircraft)

· Chaff and flare dispensers (ALE-40)

· Infrared Missile Warning Receiver (IRWR) (SOFI aircraft)

· Secure Speech (KY-58/75) UHF, VHF, VHF-FM, HF and SATCOM radios with HAVE QUICK II capability

· KY-879 data burst capability

· Night Vision Goggles (F4949)

· NVG Heads-Up Display (SOFI aircraft)

· Nose mounted Infrared Detection System (SOFI aircraft)


The MC-130P employs night terrain contour (NTC) procedures. NTC missions are flown in VMC using NVGs. The profile is flown at 500 feet above ground level using terrain masking. If necessary, the mission can be flown with visual and electronic-controlled emissions. The range of the mission depends on several factors: length of time on the low-level route, enroute weather, winds, and the air refueling offload requirements (see Planning Factors). Portions of the profile may be flown at high altitude to minimize fuel consumption. NTC procedures will be used to avoid enemy detection in a non-permissive environment to get the aircraft to the objective area.


The MC-130P normally flies in a formation of aircraft to provide the capability of multiple simultaneous refueling of large helicopter formations. An airborne spare tanker is also a part of the formation.

Air Refueling

This is the primary mission of the MC-130P. To significantly decrease the amount of time required to refuel helicopters, the MC-130P can simultaneously refuel two helicopters. Minimum refueling altitude is 1,000 ft AGL for training. For operational missions, lower altitudes may be used. Refueling is accomplished on NVGs.


The MC-130P airdrop personnel or equipment. The drop zone point of impact (PI) must be marked. The location, size, and marking of drop zones must conform with AFI 13-217.

· Release point computation. Normally the navigator determines the release point using

manual Computed Air Release Point (CARP) procedures, parachute ballistic data, and wind effects. He visually directs the pilot to the release point. Alternate methods of deployments include Visual Ground Marked Release System (GMRS), Verbally Initiated Release System (VIRS), jumpmaster directed airdrops, and parabundle and free-fall drop procedures for door bundles.

Personnel Drops

The MC-130P can be used for both static line and free-fall jumps.

· Static line low altitude airdrops: 130 KIAS at a minimum of 800 ft AGL.

· The aircraft is not configured to retrieve static lines from the ramp. All static line jumps must be accomplished from the paratroop doors. With two loadmasters, one per door, the maximum number of jumpers that can be deployed is six per door per pass, or 12 per pass with 15 foot static lines, a U-clamp must be used on the anchor cable. The purpose of the U-clamp is to effectively shorten the static line to prevent fouling of the static lines on the external rails of the MC-130P cargo door.

· High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) airdrops are made above 3000 ft AGL where a freefall is planned prior to parachute opening. The navigator will determine the High Altitude Release Point (HARP). High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) airdrops are normally made above 10,000 ft AGL, but with no freefall, in order to travel long distances. Both are flown at 130 KIAS.

Equipment Drops

Parabundle and free-fall door bundle drops are aircrew directed at very low altitudes. Parabundles are dropped at 300ft AGL with parachutes, or 150ft AGL without parachutes. Both of these drops are flown at 130 KIAS.


Infiltration and exfiltration may be conducted at overt landing zones. Landing zones and lighting must conform to AFI 13-217. The landing zone should be hard surfaced. Except for contingency/emergency operations, runway lengths less than 3000 feet will not be used.

· Minimum runway width is 60 feet.

· Minimum taxiway width is 30 feet.

· Runway lighting must be available. (CAN BE COVERT)

Planning Factors and Considerations

· Twelve hours of crew rest prior to flight is required once all planning is completed.

· Three hours are required prior to takeoff for briefings, final planning, aircraft preflight checks, engine start, taxi and takeoff.

· Most missions are 5 to 6 hrs in duration, to include 3 to 4 hrs of low-level.

· Load capabilities are dependent on aircraft configuration and fuel load.

Crew Duty Day

· 12 hours training

· 16 hours operational

· 22 hours augmented. (Requires one additional Aircraft Commander, Navigator, Flight Engineer, and Communications Specialist for overwater flights in excess of 16 hours)



In 1990 the EC-130 joined the newly formed Air Force Special Operations Command and has since been designated Commando Solo, with no change in mission. This one-of-a-kind aircraft is consistently improving its capabilities. The next few years should see continued enhancements to the EC-130 and its world-wide mission. The EC-130 was deployed to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Their missions included broadcasts of "Voice of the Gulf," and other programs intended to convince Iraqi soldiers to surrender. Most recently, in 1994, Commando Solo was utilized to broadcast radio and television messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. The EC-130s deployed early in the operation, highlighting the importance of PSYOP in avoiding military and civilian casualties. President Aristide was featured on the broadcasts which contributed significantly to the orderly transition from military rule to democracy. The 193 rd SOG is based at Harrisburg International Airport, Middletown PA.

· Builder: Lockheed

· Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 Turboprop Engines

· Length: 100 ft 6 in; Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 meters)

· Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 meters)

· Speed: 299 mph

· Ceiling: 22,000 ft

· Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 lbs

· Range: 2,100-plus miles (unlimited with in-flight refueling)

· Crew: Four officers (pilot, copilot, navigator, mission control chief/EWO); seven enlisted (flight engineer, loadmaster, five mission crew)

· Air Force (ANG) Inventory: 6


Commando Solo is an airborne electronic broadcasting system utilizing four EC-130E RivetRider (RR) aircraft operated by the 193 rd Special Operations Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Commando Solo conducts psychological operations and civil affairs broadcast missions in the standard AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands. Missions are flown at maximum altitudes possible to ensure optimum propagation patterns. This system may also be used to:

· Support disaster assistance efforts by broadcasting public information and instruction for evacuation operations.

· Provide temporary replacement for existing transmitters or expanding their areas of coverage.

· Other requirements, which involve radio and television broadcasting in its frequency, range.



A total of six transmitters cover the frequency range of 450 KHz to 350 MHz. These transmitters are capable of high output power and several modes of operation. Significant advantages of these transmitters are that the parameters of the transmission can be adjusted to coincide with established telecommunication standards. Transmission frequencies can be discrete, which is to say transmissions will not interfere with adjacent frequencies or channels.

Transmitting Antennas

Commando Solo utilizes nine fixed antennas for WE transmissions and one adjustable-length trailing wire for the MH and HF operations. The single trailing wire antenna limits the system to one transmission at a time in the MF/HF bands. Radiation patterns of all antennas show signal strength greatest at points broadside to the aircraft, and nulls in signal strength at points forward and aft of the aircraft.

Effective Radiated Power (ERP)

The ERP of a specific transmission will depend on the combination of the power of the transmitter, line loss between the transmitter and antenna, and the efficiency and gain of the associated antenna. Commando Solo transmission line loss varies between 0 dB and 1.5 dB.

Radio Receivers

Eight radio receivers provide frequency coverage from 200 KHz to 1000 MHz. In addition, four spectrum analyzers, used to check transmission quality, provide limited receiver capability. The associated antennas are omnidirectional in pattern; therefore, the receiver section does not have DF capabilities. Reception is degraded by transmission in proximity of the receiver signal.

Secure Communications

Two KY-58 systems are installed, one system for the flight crew ARC-164 radios and the second for the mission crew ARC-164 and ARC-186 radios. The two ARC-164 radios assigned to the flight crew are equipped with the HAVE QUICK modification.


The EC-130 flies during either day or night scenarios and is air refuelable. A typical mission consists of a single-ship orbit, which is offset from the desired target audience. The targets may be either military or civilian personnel. Secondary missions include command and control communications countermeasures (C3CM) and limited intelligence gathering.

Civic Action

Commando Solo capabilities can support civil actions by broadcasting via radio or TV. · Educational programs and telecasts

· Messages/speeches by government officials of friendly countries

· Entertainment and cultural programs


The MH-53J Pave Low III heavy-lift helicopter is the largest and most powerful helicopter in the Air Force inventory, and the most technologically advanced helicopter in the world. The terrain- following and terrain-avoidance radar, forward-looking infrared sensor, inertial navigation system with GPS, along with a projected map display, enable the crew to follow terrain contours as low as 100 feet and avoid obstacles even in adverse weather.


· Builder: Sikorsky

· Power Plant: 2 General Electric T64-GE/-100 engines

· Thrust: 4330 shaft horsepower per engine

· Length: 88 ft (28 meters)

· Height: 25 ft (7.6 meters)

· Rotary Diameter: 72 ft (21.9 meters)

· Speed: 130 knots (110 knots for flight planning purposes)

· Ceiling: 16,000 ft

· Maximum Takeoff Weight: 50,000 lbs (waiver required above 46,000 lbs)

· Range: 600 nautical miles (unlimited with aerial refueling)

· Armament: Combination of three 7.62 miniguns or .50 caliber machine guns

· Crew: Two officers (pilots) and four enlisted (two flight engineers and two aerial gunners)


The MH-53J Pave Low helicopter is a night, adverse-weather special operations weapon system that was designed to be a flight lead platform for less capable aircraft. The primary mission of the MH-53J is to conduct covert low-level, long-range undetected penetration into denied areas, day or night, in adverse weather for infiltration, exfiltration, or resupply of special operations forces to include airdrops and heavy-lift sling operations. The aircraft can perform a variety of other missions to include shipboard operations, radar vectoring, and combat search and rescue.


Under the Air Force's Pave Low IIIE program, all Air Force H-53s were modified and designated MH-53Js. Their modifications include improved Pave Low avionics, satellite communications, shipboard modifications and structural improvements. All MH-53Js are modified for shipboard operations and feature automatic main rotor blade and tail rotor pylon fold. The MH-53J is also equipped with armor plating and a combination of three guns, 7.62mm miniguns or .50 caliber machine guns. It can be equipped with 27 troop seats or 14 litters. An external cargo hook has a 20,000 pound (9,000 kilograms) capacity. This highly modified aircraft is equipped with a rack of navigation, communication, special/auxiliary equipment, defensive systems to include the following:

Navigation Equipment

The Enhanced Navigation System (ENS) provides a precise navigational capability that is essential for low-level, night/adverse weather operations. The ENS consists of several subsystems to include a mission computer, inertial navigation unit (INU), global positioning system and video symbology display system (VSDS). The ENS interfaces with a variety of other systems to include the Doppler, Projected Map Display (PMD), Terrain Following/Terrain Avoidance (TF/TA) radar, and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR).

Doppler Navigation System

This system provides continuous Doppler derived measurements of the helicopter's velocity vector, continuous computation of present position, and worldwide navigation guidance.

Projected Map Display

This system provides a moving map display showing a continuous, pictorial representation of the helicopter's horizontal position and movement relative to the terrain.

Terrain Following/Terrain Avoidance (TF/TA) Radar

This system is a multi-mode, J-band radar that provides the operator with radar video imagery of terrain features, other radar-reflective targets, terrain-following/terrain avoidance, weather avoidance and air-to-ground range data.

Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)

This is a controllable, infrared surveillance system, which provides a video infrared image of terrain features, and ground or airborne objects of interest. The FLIR is a passive system, and detects IR energy emitted by any object in daylight or darkness and displays it on the two cockpit monitors.

Special/Auxiliary Equipment

· The Rescue Hoist is capable of raising and lowering 600 pounds. The hoist has approximately 240 feet of usable cable and is used to raise and lower a rescue sling, a basket, or a forest penetrator.

· The External Cargo Hook provides capability of supporting sling loads, rated to 20,000

pounds capacity.

· The Hover-coupler gives the crew the ability to transition from forward flight to a preset altitude(or a landing) in adverse weather by using a small hover coupler "joy stick".

· The Fast Rope System allows for rapid insertion of large numbers of personnel in areas where landing is impractical or impossible. Up to three ropes may be used: two from the overhead ramp and one from the personnel door.

· The Aircrew Eye and Respiratory System (AERPS) provides crews with the ability to operate in a biological or chemical environment. Each system is self contained, mobile, and can be powered by a portable battery or the aircraft electrical system.

· Data Transfer Module (DTM) is a data storage device (similar to a floppy disk) used to store and transfer flight planning data. Aircrew can flight plan by using a STAMPS or SOFPARS computer, transfer the flight planning data onto a DTM, and then load the data into the aircraft’s ENS computer.

· The Personnel Locator and Rescue System (LARS or PLS), AN/ARS-6(V) is designed to locate survivors when they are equipped with the AN/PRC-112A(V) Survival Radio Set. The PLS can provide steering guidance to any source of continuous wave signal and can provide two-way communications with survivors.

· Aircraft Lighting consist of a variety of interior and exterior white and Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible Infra Red lighting. Exterior lights include a hover light, two controllable spotlights, an SX-5E Controllable IR light, and a Signal Number Light. The hover light is a white light used for non-covert hoist or cargo sling operations. The controllable spotlights, one controllable by each pilot, are dual purpose and can emit white or Infra Red light. TheSX-5E is a 500 watt Xenon lamp that provides a high intensity source of infra-red light. The Signal Number Lights are seven segmented lights that are mounted in the aft left and right cabin windows. The units display a single segmented numerical digit from 0-9, in a visible green or covert IR mode. They may be used as a means of aircraft chalk I.D. or for passing covert messages between aircraft in a formation.

· Communications capabilities consist of UHF, VHF, FM, HF, and SATCOM radios, all of which are capable of secure communications. The UHF radio is HAVE QUICK capable. These radios are supplemented by the PLS radio which can be used as a back up UHF.


The MH-53J has three weapons stations: left window, right door, and ramp. Each station can mount either an XM-218 .50 caliber machine gun or GAU-2 B/A 7.62mm minigun. A crewmember at each station manually operates the weapons. The weapons are used primarily for self-defense and enemy suppression. The helicopter was not designed for use as an attack gunship platform. However, the helicopter weapons are capable of providing suppressive fire support for teams on the ground. Crewmembers are trained to fly L attack, dogbone, racetrack, figure 8 and spooky gun patterns as per AFSOCI 11-208 for fire support missions. Weapons training conducted during both day and night, is routine with an average of two missions per week per crewmember.

The typical gun configuration is a GAU-2 B/A 7.62 minigun at the left and right station with a GAU-18 .50 cal on the tail. The minigun is normally used for soft targets and troop suppression, which requires a high rate of fire (2,000-4,000 rounds per minute). The .50-cal allows the helicopter to engage light armor and reinforced positions at greater ranges. Each weapon system is capable of mounting an Infrared Aiming Device (IRAD) which enhances target acquisition. The type of threat and mission requirements will dictate the weapons configuration.

7.62 Miniguns

The 7.62mm miniguns are air-cooled, link-belt fed, and have a maximum effective range of 1,500 meters with tracer burnout at 750 meters. The weapon has an adjustable rate of fire of 2,000 or 4,000 RPM. The crewmembers currently fire ball ammunitions with a mix of four ball to one tracer (4:1), or a 9:1 mix to prevent goggle shutdown on low-illumination nights. The ammo complement without reloading is 3,000 to 4,000 rounds.

.50cal Machine Gun

The .50cal machine guns are air-cooled; link-belt fed, mechanically operated and fired, and are capable of firing 750 to 850 RPM. The .50cal has a maximum effective range of 3,000 meters with a tracer burnout of 1,500 meters. For training purposes, a ball ammunition mix of 4:1 is used. For actual employment, this changes to four armor-piercing incendiary and one armor piercing incendiary tracer (APIT). Ammunition is fed to the gun in one of two ways; a 100 round ammo can attached to the gun or a 1300 round ammo container attached to the aircraft floor. The ammunition complement is 500 rounds per gun for training and 800 to 1300 rounds for combat missions.

Planning Considerations.

Exercise/Operational missions can be executed with 24 hours notice. Once the initial planning is complete, crews go into 12 hours of crew rest prior to flight. After crew rest, the crew needs about 3 hours for final planning, crew briefing, and run-up time prior to take-off.

Weather Minimums.

· Air refueling weather minimums for VMC rendezvous is 5NM visibility and for radar rendezvous it is 1NM.

· Operational weather minimums. The MH-53J, with its unique systems configuration, is capable of operating in total IMC and/or total darkness. However, at the remote site, risk is reduced greatly if operations are conducted in VMC conditions with a minimum of 200-foot ceiling and 1/2 mile visibility, and 5 to 20 percent illumination; for air refueling operations, a minimum of 500-foot ceilings and 1 mile visibility also reduces risk. If the hover coupler is required for letdown from IMC, the maximum winds for this operation is 30 knots. The hover coupler is not required if weather is greater than 100 ft ceiling and ¼ mile visibility.

Altitude Restrictions.

· Minimum refueling altitude is 1000 ft AGL. For operational mission, refueling can be accomplished as low as mission dictates when refueling from an MC-130E/P.

· Minimum enroute altitude for approved low-level areas is 50 ft Outside low-level areas; 300 ft is the minimum enroute altitude.

· Landing areas. Landing areas should be surveyed and be a minimum of two rotor diameters (approximately 150 ft).

Wind Restrictions.

· Operational and support missions. No minimum specified. However, 45 knots is the maximum wind for starting and stopping the rotor. Surface winds in excess of 45 knots should be avoided.

Additional Planning Factors.

· Maximum aircraft gross weight: 50,000 lbs (waiver required above 46,000 lbs)

· Cargo area (unobstructed: Height-77 in, Width-90 in, Length-200 in)

· Troop capacity: 27 troop seats or 14 litters

· Normal planning cruise speed: 110 knots

· Normal fuel burn rate: 2500-2600 lbs per hour

Crew Qualification

Not all crewmembers are qualified for all types of missions. Specialized crew qualifications include shipboard operation, formation live fire with ground parties, night water and night water low-and-slow deployment operations.

Crew Duty Day

· Operational/contingency mission crew duty day: 14 hours

· Operational/contingency mission crew duty day with augmented crew: 18 hours

Typical Combat Load and Weight

· Basic aircraft (Heaviest aircraft) 33,126

· Crewmembers (6x200 lbs) 1,200

· Emergency/misc. equipment 75

· Operating weight (Zero fuel) 34,401

· Right and left minigun systems 466

· 7.62mm ammunition (6000 rnds) 390

· Tail .50 cal machine gun system 248

· .50 cal ammunition (500 rnds) 145

· Flare and chaff 101

· Combat operating weight 35,751

· Internal 600 gallon auxiliary fuel tank 287

· Combat operating weight with aux. tank 36,038


The MH-60G Pave Hawk is a modern, medium-lift, special operations helicopter for missions requiring medium-to-long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces on land or sea. In addition, the SOF-unique mission equipment allows this aircraft to be used for recovery of injured special operations personnel. The MH-60G is equipped with forward-looking infrared radar to better enable the crew to follow terrain contours and avoid obstacles at night. The Air Force has 55 Pave Hawks in the active component and 25 in the Reserves.

MH-60G Specifications

· Builder: Sikorsky

· Power Plant: 2 General Electric T700-GE or T700-GE-01C engines

· Thrust: 1,560-1,630 shaft horsepower each engine

· Length: 64.8 ft (17.1 meters)

· Height: 16.8 ft (4.4 meters)

· Rotary Diameter: 53.7 ft (14.1 meters)

· Speed: 184 mph

· Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 lbs

· Range: 450 nautical miles (unlimited with aerial refueling)

· Armament: Two 7.62mm miniguns

· Crew: Two officers (pilots); two enlisted (flight engineer and gunner)


The MH-60G's primary wartime missions are infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in day, night, or marginal weather conditions. Other missions include combat search and rescue. The MH-60G, a highly modified variant of the UH-60A Black Hawk, offers increased capability in range (endurance), navigation, communications, and defensive systems. The MH-60G can be deployed to support a full range of special air warfare activities to include special operations, psychological operations, and civil affairs.


Navigation Equipment

MH-60G navigation equipment includes:

· Integrated navigation computer system consisting of a ring-laser inertial navigation system

· Global positioning system

· Doppler navigation system


· KG-10 map display unit

· Weather avoidance radar

The MH-60G also includes a navigation system interfaced forward looking infrared (FLIR) system and a voice altitude warning system to provide enhanced terrain clearance operations. A Personnel Locator System (PLS) is installed to enhance locating and identifying ground forces for extraction.

Special/Auxiliary Equipment

· All the MH-60Gs have an automatic flight control system to stabilize the aircraft in typical flight altitudes. They also have instrumentation and engine and rotor blade anti- ice systems for all-weather operation.

· Internal cargo tie down rings, a rescue hoist, and an "H-bar" installation are standard equipment as insertion/extraction devices for hoist, fast rope, rappelling, stabo, and SPIE rig operations.

· The Pave Hawk can also be equipped with the external stores support system.

· To extend their range, the Pave Hawks are equipped with a retractable in-flight refueling probe and internal auxiliary fuel tanks. Pave Hawks are equipped with a rescue hoist with a 250-foot cable with a 600-pound capacity.

· External loads can be carried on an 8,000-pound capacity cargo hook. For shipboard operations and to ease air transportability Pave Hawks are equipped with folding rotor blades and tail stabilator.

· Communication systems include secure HF, UHF, HAVE QUICK UHF, and FM radios as well as SATCOM and digital data burst system.

Defensive Equipment

· ALQ-144 infrared countermeasures (IRCM) system

· Hover infrared suppression system

· improved flare and chaff dispensing systems


Defensive Armaments

Defensive armaments include a forward cabin-mounted 7.62mm miniguns firing either 2,000 or 4,000 rpm and cabin-mounted .50-cal machine guns. With the addition of the external stores support system (ESSS), the aircraft can carry fixed forward-firing armaments for use as a defensive and escort aircraft. Each ESSS wing can carry two 7 or 19-shot, 2.75-inch folding fin aerial rocket pods or dual 20mm cannons/.50-cal machine guns.


The MH-60G can be successfully employed in the low-to-medium threat environment. As the level of threat increases above this, the chance of detection will increase, decreasing the probability of success. The probability of success will also decrease as the total number of aircraft in the mission increase due to an increased chance of detection (i.e., larger multi-ship or dissimilar type formations). The requirement to operate from a Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point (FAARP) will also decrease the probability of success due to the extended exposure time.

The MH-60G will operate at low altitudes over land and water. The aircraft will normally be employed as part of a larger vertical-lift package, which may require dissimilar multi-ship formations. The MH-60G will operate into unprepared, unlighted, uncontrolled landing zones 50

meters or larger in diameter.


The MH-60G can be deployed by airlift, sea-lift, or self-deployed. The preferred deployment option is airlift using a C-5, and is essential if rapid deployment is required. A C-5 can transport a maximum of five MH-60Gs. The aircraft can be broken down for shipment in less than 1 hour and off-loaded and rebuilt at the location in less than 2 hours. The optimum deployment package is four MH-60Gs via C-5. Due to the rapid tear down and buildup times, it is normally faster to air transport the aircraft rather than self-deploy when distances exceed 1,500 NM using aerial refueling, or 1,000 NM using ground refueling. Deployments can be worldwide using a main base or a limited/standby base with host support. Deployments can be conducted in a deceptive or low-visibility mode. The number of aircraft required and the time phasing after notification are specified in other sources. Self-deployment utilizing aerial refueling assets requirements are:

· One tanker aircraft, plus one spare, per four MH-60Gs.

· Two tanker aircraft, plus one spare, per six MH-60Gs or sea in marginal weather conditions using minimum/no communications.

Planning Considerations

The time required to adequately plan for a mission varies with the complexity and length of the mission (i.e., flight time, number of other aircraft, types of aircraft involved in the formation, threat, and location of the objective). As a general rule of thumb, comprehensive mission planning requires a minimum of 6 hours. Ideally, a tasking arrives while the crews are in crew rest, and primary mission planning is accomplished by unit mission planners. The crews arrive approximately 3 hours prior to their mission departure time and fine tune the planning.

Weather Minimums

The MH-60G is designed to operate in a variety of weather conditions. Due to the use of night optical devices (NVGs and FLIR) and color weather radar, the aircraft can operate in very low- visibility conditions with low cloud ceilings. However, the MH-60G is a visual meteorological conditions (VMC) platform with weather avoidance capability.

Fuel Endurance and Performance

Mission endurance is increased through the use of an air refueling probe for inflight aerial refueling. In addition, the aircraft can be ground refueled using pressure or gravity feed systems at forward area arming and refueling points (FAARPS) or onboard ships. The MH-60G has a choice of internal auxiliary fuel tanks for extended range operations. The aircraft can be equipped with either the single, 117-gallon tank, offering 3.3 hours of aircraft operations, or the dual, 185-gallon tanks, offering 4.5 hours of unrefueled operations.

Mission Effectiveness

Mission effectiveness is highly dependent upon accurate, complete, all-source, real-time intelligence. The MH-60G has weather avoidance radar, but this equipment does not replace the use of detailed, highly accurate, timely weather forecasts for pre-mission planning.

Troop/Aircraft Load Capacity

The aircraft is capable of transporting 12 combat-equipped troops in an alternate loading configuration without internal auxiliary fuel tanks. With internal fuel tanks installed, maximum troop capacity is 10, with an optimum load of 6.


Crew Qualification. Aircrews maintain qualification in night vision goggle (NVG) tactical operations, NVG aerial refueling, NVG shipboard operations, and NVG overwater operations to include rubber boat deployment ("low and slow"), fast rope infiltration, and hoist or rope ladder exfiltration. Standard Crew: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers (or 1 flight engineer and 1 aerial gunner).


STTs are quick-reaction, deployable Air Force units, which are uniquely organized, trained, and equipped to facilitate the air/ground interface during joint special operations and sensitive recovery missions. The STTs are comprised of combat controllers, pararescue, and support personnel.


The special tactics mission is to provide the Joint Special Operations Air Component Commander (JSOACC) with quick-reaction command and control positive air traffic management, and casualty recovery, treatment and evacuation staging during joint air and ground/maritime operations including short notice, sensitive contingencies. Special tactics teams operate in a ground role with joint or combined special operations task forces.


ST teams can be deployed by airlift, sea-lift or overland means. Airlift is the preferred method of deployment and is critical for time sensitive operations.

· One C-130 can deploy a single ST team and its associated equipment.

· Deployment can be worldwide to a main base or forward operating location. Teams will

require host support at the deployed location.

· For deployment purposes, there are two basic special tactics team types; the tactical team and the recovery team. The tactical team consists of eighteen personnel while the recovery team contains nine. Once deployed, exact team composition and equipment can be tailored by the team leader to meet specific employment mission requirements.


ST teams may be employed tactically directly from their home station into the area of operations.

ST forces can be employed as stand-alone units or combined with other special operations forces

into a joint team. ST teams may be employed using a variety of tactical methods including:

· Static line or military freefall parachute

· Scuba, small boat or amphibious means

· Overland using mounted or dismounted techniques

· Airland via fixed or rotary wing aircraft

· Airmobile procedures including, rope, ladder or STABO

A ST team is the basic tactical element for special tactics forces. The tactical team may be employed complete or broken into as many as six smaller elements. A special tactics recovery team is normally employed for specialized missions such as CSAR or personnel recovery. The recovery team may be employed complete or broken down into as many as three elements.

Specific Employment

ST teams can be deployed in support of the full range of special operations missions and collateral activities to include direct action, foreign internal defense, combat search and rescue, personnel/equipment recovery, humanitarian assistance, and civil affairs.

Mission Tasks

· Provide terminal guidance and air traffic control for assault zones (AZ). An AZ may be an established airfield, landing strip or unimproved site. The team can:

¾ Establish ground-to-air communications.

¾ Coordinate AZ activities with the ground force commander.

¾ Perform weather observations. Provide positive control of personnel and equipment within the airhead area to include control of Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARRP) operations.

· Select, evaluate, survey and establish AZs. The special tactics team can:

¾ Clear, mark and operate the AZ

¾ Establish enroute and terminal navigation aids and beacons

¾ Conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions

¾ Support selected regional survey team (RST) missions

¾ Remove obstacles to flight for follow-on operations

· Provide medical care, recovery and evacuation. The special tactics team can:

¾ Provide combat emergency medical and trauma care

¾ Operate specialized personnel locator systems

¾ Operate combat medical evacuation vehicles

¾ Conduct recovery security team operations

¾ Conduct casualty transload and evacuation operations

¾ Conduct sensitive recovery operations

· Conduct, coordinate, and plan fire support operations. The special tactics team can:

¾ Control CAS aircraft

¾ Control naval gunfire

¾ Spot for artillery fire

¾ Operate laser targeting equipment

· Conduct mobile training team operations. The team can provide training to allied or indigenous personnel in:

¾ Assault zone, communications, and other special operations

¾ Combat medical and related casualty treatment procedures

¾ Other special tactics/operations related procedures

¾ Conduct other special operations missions as directed

Basic Planning Considerations

· ST teams deploy with the minimum equipment and supplies needed to complete a mission. They are normally equipped to operate for up to 72 hours without resupply. Infiltrations or operations in excess of 72 hours will require resupply of consumables including additional equipment, batteries, fuel, water, and rations.

· Operations in excess of 72 hours or multiple special tactics taskings are considered sustained operations and a special tactics operation's center (STOC) must be deployed along with the employing tactical team(s). The STOC contains the additional command and planning staff and maintenance/logistics functions needed to support employed team(s). The STOC should be deployed to the nearest available staging or operations base with access to the tactical team's area of operations.

· Mission effectiveness is highly dependent upon accurate, complete, real-time intelligence. ST planners must have access to all intelligence sources.

· The time required for ST teams to prepare for a mission varies with the complexity and length of the mission. As a rule of thumb, a tactical team requires a minimum of 12 hours to provide adequate pre-mission rest, conduct final planning, brief team members and ready equipment. Any preliminary mission planning or preparation time must be added to this 12-hour figure.


Aviation-FID training and advice include airpower doctrine development, force planning, and operational support as well as tactical employment in such mission areas as airlift, fighter operations, forward air control (FAC), SAR, special tactics (ST), and gunship operations. This assistance includes both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Assistance in aviation support operations includes aircraft maintenance, supply, logistics, airbase ground defense, munitions, ground safety, command and control, communications, intelligence, and risk management. Operations associated with aviation-FID include support for counterinsurgency and counterdrug operations. Additionally, the aviation FID squadron supports the following SO missions and collateral activities:

Unconventional Warfare (UW)

The unit’s task entails training and advising foreign aviation units to support partisan operations in occupied territory with aerial insertion, extraction, and resupply from a third-country sanctuary.

Coalition Support

The unit’s task entails supporting foreign aviation units with advisory assistance in such areas as operational and tactical planning, force integration, and mission execution. Coalition support includes advisory actions to:

· Promote safety and interoperability between US forces and coalition partners.

· Facilitate airspace deconfliction.

· Help integrate host aviation efforts into multi-national air campaign operations.

· Increase the tactical effectiveness of host-country aviation resources.

· Maintain vital coordination links between host-country aviation units and the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC).

Humanitarian Assistance And Disaster Relief

The unit’s task includes advising and training host-nation aviation elements to conduct air operations supporting host government and multi-national humanitarian aid and disaster assistance programs.


The 6th Special Operations Squadron (6 SOS) is a combat advisory unit activated for the purpose of advising and training foreign aviation units to employ and sustain their own assets in both peace and war, and, when necessary, to integrate those assets into joint, multi-national operations. It supports the theater combatant commanders in three interrelated areas: foreign internal defense (FID), unconventional warfare (UW), and coalition support. The mission area also encompasses collateral activities such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.


When tasked, unit personnel deploy to a designated country, collocate with host-nation aviation elements at squadron, wing, or headquarters levels, and train and/or advise counterpart personnel in the employment and support of air operations. Training and advisory assistance is conducted at both the operational and tactical levels.

Planning Considerations

The basic unit deployment module for aviation advisory operations is an Operational Aviation Detachment-Alpha (OAD-A). When multiple OADs are deployed to the field, an OAD-B is also deployed as a headquarters, C3, and administrative support element. The teams are specially tailored in both size and composition to meet specific mission needs. A notional OAD-A consists of 12 personnel capable of teaching and/or advising in the functional areas shown below. A medic may bring the total strength of a notional OAD-A to 13 individuals.



The C-141/C-5/C-17 SOLL II forces from the Air Mobility Command (AMC) are capable of conducting clandestine formtion or single-ship intrusion of hostile territory to provide highly reliable, self-contained, precision airdrop and airland of personnel and equipment. The assumed mission concept will be day/night, low-level, without the use of external aids. Mission success is enhanced by minimum lighting, minimum communications, deceptive course changes, and preplanned avoidance of enemy radar/air defenses and populated areas. Each aircraft is well- suited for many special operations applications due to their load-carrying capability, ability to operate into short austere runways, and their normal, known signature.

SOLL II Capabilities

· Crew consists of three pilots, two navigators, two loadmasters (4 loadmasters for a C-5

crew), and two flight engineers.

¾ Minimum Flight Altitudes. Night VMC routes, legs or segments will be flown at 500 ft

above the highest obstruction within three NM of route centerline.

¾ Airland Operations. Landing zones may be marked with a minimum of NO LIGHTS or a

Box In One. Weather minimums are VFR.

Employment Operations

Due to OPSEC considerations, rapid response requirements, and/or lack of suitable forwardoperating bases, many C-141/C-5 SOLL II missions will require long-range employment flights. Necessary command and control communications will be accomplished by secure SATCOM and line-of-sight radios. Land-fall points are selected to minimize detection by hostile forces. Precise navigation positioning after extended overwater flights is required. On these long missions, it is imperative that both the aircrew and user's fatigue are minimized so human errors are reduced during critical phases of the mission, such as the low-level portion and objective area operations.

Crew Duty Day

· Basic Crew. Crew duty day varies for basic crews and augmented crews. Crew duty day for a basic crew is 16 hours, providing no tactical events and no air refueling is accomplished after 14 hours.

· Augmented Crew. Crew duty day for an augmented crew is 24 hours, providing no tactical events and no air refueling is accomplished after 18 hours.