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A New Era Takes Flight

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

A rainy June 2, 2020, was a historic day for the 39th Rescue Squadron as aircrew members flew the first fully operational HC-130J Combat King II training mission.


This first operational flight marks an important milestone for the 39th RQS because the HC-130J replaced the HC-130 P/N as the only Air Force dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform. The new aircraft came directly off the production line from Lockheed Martin and went straight to the flight line earlier just two months ago.   


“The Combat King II, flies faster, higher and further. It’s capabilities, far exceeds that of its predecessor” said Col. Ian, 920th Rescue Wing vice commander. “This is not your grandfathers C-130. This is the beginning of exciting new era for our wing.”


Despite the rain outside, the atmosphere inside the briefing room was that of excitement and anticipation. The discussion centered on a crawl, walk, run mentality for the introduction of the new aircraft. The first flight is the start of the crawl phase where pilots, combat systems officers (CSO) and loadmasters become comfortable in this new, state-of-the-art, aircraft.


The crew consisted of Lt. Col. Matt and Lt. Col Bobby, both 39th RQS instructor pilots, Lt. Col. Rich, CSO, as well as loadmasters Senior Master Sgt. Rob, “BK”, and Master Sgt. Dean.

“Since I began training a year ago, I have been waiting for this moment,” said Master Sgt. Dean.  “The HC-130J is amazing in every aspect. I can’t wait to see how it adds to our mission, given its capabilities.” 


The HC-130J has improved technology, to include a full glass cockpit, with digital heads up displays, improved navigation, threat detection, and new capabilities, such as satellite and data-burst communications and the ability to receive inflight refueling to travel longer distances


In order to become qualified to operate in the HC-130J, the aircrew members returned to training in Little Rock, Arkansas and Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque New Mexico. Even though the majority of the aircrew were highly experienced and skilled in the HC-130 P/N platform, the formal school training took an average of seven months to complete; but that was just the beginning. Due to the unique mission of the 920th RQW, additional hours in the J model are required for full proficiency.  


The 39th RQS uses the HC-130 in its vital mission of personal recovery in combat and peacetime situations, including helicopter air-to-air refueling, airdrop, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. 


The mission included multiple take off and landings at various airfields, weather, navigation and systems training. The crew debriefed the lessons learned of the first flight and discussed the way forward for the squadron and crew members as the new HC-130J becomes thoroughly integrated into the 39th RQS.


“These five rocked it and I was incredibly proud to have been in the seat for the 39th’s first sortie,” said Lt. Col. Steve, 39th RQS commander.


Based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, the 920th Rescue Wing is the only Air Force Reserve Command combat-search-and-rescue wing. The wing trains and equips over 2,000 Airmen who carry out its mission, to search for, locate and recover U.S. Armed Forces personnel during military operations.