The Last of Them: The boneyard receives final MC-130H

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jantzen Floate
  • Air Force Special Operations Command

On April 2, the final MC-130H Combat Talon ll made its last flight, arriving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona to retire at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). This aircraft was the last of the final six MC-130Hs transferred for storage at the 309th AMARG, known as the boneyard.

The aircraft, tail number 89-0280 belonging to the 1st Special Operations Wing, was flown by a Total Force crew and included Lt Gen Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander, to pay homage to the heroic legacy and service the Talon II has provided for AFSOC and the joint force over the past 30 years.

“Today marks the end of a legacy for one of the finest airplanes ever flown in AFSOC,” said Bauernfeind. “The MC-130H Combat Talon II, or as the crews that’ve flown it call it: “The Chariot of Armageddon,held a critical mission of special operations forces mobility in infiltrating and exfiltrating into many of the hardest locations in the world while upholding the Talon Standard of absolute precision. I’m very proud of the entire Talon community; the crews, maintainers, and operations support personnel.” 

Initially arriving at Hurlburt Field in June 1992, the MC-130H Combat Talon II is a derivative of the C-130H Hercules modified for special operations and played a vital role in AFSOC operations across the globe.

The mission of the Combat Talon ll was to provide infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile and denied territories, while also providing a secondary air refueling capability for helicopters and vertical lift platforms. Additionally, it also provided SOF commanders with an all-weather, low-level penetration option utilizing its terrain following capabilities.

The standard aircrew complement for the MC-130H was seven consisting of two pilots, a navigator, two loadmasters, a flight engineer, and an electronic warfare officer.

“The Talon II was a navigator’s dream due to the planning required and systems expertise necessary to fly it,” said Col. Richard Greszler, Jr., AFSOC Operations Center commander and prior MC-130H navigator. “The ability to fly in mountainous terrain in [instrument meteorological conditions] required extremely detailed mission planning, so every flight required the whole crew to understand the limitations of the aircraft and the crew, and to push right up to the edge in order to be successful. The ability to project power and penetrate denied or sensitive areas to further our Nation’s interest was the hallmark of the Talon II.”

Over the last 30 years, the Combat Talon ll was critical to many missions from evacuations of civilians from the Republic of the Congo in 1997, to enduring counterterror and counter-violent extremist organizations (C-VEO) operations.

“The legacy of the Talon II fills me with pride,” Greszler said. “Pride in a community which looked to be tasked to defend our Nation no matter the danger. The aircraft was an amazing machine, but it was the men and women who crewed and maintained the Chariot of Armageddon that made it special. They constantly strove to improve and never let their teammates down.”

With the completion of the final trip to AMARG, the MC-130H fleet has approximately 264,442 total flight hours and 106,850 sorties since its start of operations in late 1992.

Replacing the MC-130H, along with the retired E and P models, is the MC-130J Commando II, which has been in operation since 2011.

The Commando II flies clandestine, or low visibility, single or multi-ship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces, by airdrop or airland and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories. The MC-130J primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats.

The last MC-130H in the 1st SOW’s inventory will be retired later this summer in Hurlburt Field’s airpark, cementing the retirement of the Talon II fleet in AFSOC.

Below are a few of the notable MC-130H tail numbers and missions that highlight the various missions the Combat Talon II will be remembered for:

89-0280: Coined “The Highlander”, 89-0280 is one of the few Combat Talon II aircraft to have been stationed at every permanent duty location for Talon II aircraft, it was later the first aircraft to respond and land at Sendai International Airport during Operation Tomadachi following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan on March 16, 2011. The mission to Sendai opened the airfield for mass follow-on relief missions, and the first C-17 was able to land four hours later.

85-0011: Coined “The Ace of Spades”, aircraft 85-0011 is known for transporting Saddam Hussein after his capture near the town of Tikrit in December 2003.  Additionally, this aircraft participated in earthquake relief efforts during a 1997 JCET down in Venezuela.  During the immediate aftermath, the crew of 0011 airlifted 175,000 lbs of supplies and received the Order of Jose Antonio Anzoategui, Venezuela’s highest medal for gallantry.

86-1699: Coined “Merlin’s Magic”, it participated in Operation Firm Response to conduct a 14.4 flight hour NEO of 56 non-combatants from the Republic of the Congo in 1997.

89-0283: This aircraft was the fourth of four Talons that opened OEF as a Rhino Raider in 2001. Rhino LZ was the first combat airfield seizure in Afghanistan in 2001. Additionally, 0283 conducted the exfil of Hamid Karzai on November 4, 2001. This aircraft also conducted a BLU-82 drop on Masir-e-Sharif and participated in the 2008 Colombia hostage rescue.