Airframe: HC-130J Combat King II

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Janiqua Robinson
  • Airman Magazine

The HC-130J is a fixed-wing Personnel Recovery Platform flown by rescue wings, squadrons and groups belonging to Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard.

The HC-130J Combat King II began its operational service in 2012 as a replacement for the HC-130P Combat King and its variants.

As a Personnel Recovery Platform, the crew that operates the HC-130J rapidly deploys and executes recovery operations in austere locations at the direction of combatant commanders.

These crews are equipped to perform airdrops, airland, refueling and forward area ground refueling missions as well as humanitarian assistance operations, disaster response, emergency aeromedical evacuation and noncombatant evacuation operations.



The HC-130J underwent significant modifications to improve its navigation, threat detection and countermeasure systems as well as in-flight refueling capabilities. It can refuel helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft and receive in-flight refueling from various Air Force tanker aircraft via its Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation.
The HC-130J uses its fully integrated inertial navigation system during day and night missions, often at low to medium altitude in contested or sensitive environments. The GPS’ night vision goggles help the crews use tactical flight profiles to avoid detection during covert infiltration, exfiltration and trans-load operations.
It also has forward-looking infrared, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, satellite and data-burst communications. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, crews employ tactics that include incorporating no external lighting or communications and avoiding radar and weapons detection.


Operational History

The HC-130J is currently operated by the 71st and 79th Rescue Squadrons for ACC, the 550th Special Operations Squadron for AETC, the 920th Rescue Group for AFRC and the 106th Rescue Wing, 129th RQW and 176th Wing for the Air National Guard. The rescue mission and HC-130J fleet was moved to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, from 2003–2006 but was moved back to ACC in 2006.


Did You Know?

  • Until 2011, HC-130s provided rescue coverage for NASA space shuttle operations.
  • The HC-130J makes up one-third of the rescue triad, which also included the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and the Guardian Angel weapons system. 

Aircraft Stats

PRIMARY FUNCTION: Fixed-wing Personnel Recovery Platform
CONTRACTOR: Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
POWER PLANT: Four Rolls Royce AE2100D3 turboprop engines
THRUST: 4,591 Propeller Shaft Horsepower, each engine
WINGSPAN: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
LENGTH: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.57 meters)
HEIGHT: 38 feet, 9 inches (11.58 meters)
OPERATING WEIGHT: 89,000 pounds (40,369 kilograms)
MAXIMUM TAKEOFF WEIGHT: 164,000 pounds (74,389 kilograms)
FUEL CAPACITY: 61,360 pounds (9,024 gallons)
PAYLOAD: 35,000 pounds (15,875 kilograms)
SPEED: 316 knots indicated air speed at sea level
RANGE: beyond 4,000 miles (3,478 nautical miles)
CEILING: 33,000 feet (10,000 meters)
ARMAMENT: countermeasures/flares, chaff
BASIC CREW: Three officers (pilot, co-pilot, combat system officer) and two enlisted loadmasters
UNIT COST: $66 million (fiscal 2010 replacement cost)