First HC-130J for the Air Force
On April 19 Lockheed Martin rolled out from its Marietta, Georgia, facility the first of a new batch of special-mission Hercules for the U.S. Air Force. The company has a contract for 21 HC/MC-130Js, but this number is expected to rise to 31 (11 HCs and 20 MCs). They will replace ageing first-generation aircraft currently serving in Special Operations Squadrons. The first aircraft is in HC-130J configuration and is outfitted for the combat rescue role. It is based on the KC-130J tanker baseline airframe, with underwing hose-drogue units for refueling rescue helicopters, and has longer wing life, an enhanced cargo handling system and a universal aerial refueling receptacle system so that it can be replenished in the air itself. An electro-optical/infrared turret is mounted under the nose, and the flight deck includes a station for a combat systems operator. The HC-130J has provision for the installation of LAIRCM countermeasures. Initial operating capability for the HC-130J is slated for 2012.