C-130J continues to show versatility- Low Cost ISR solutions!

So, I was enjoying a brief hooah video featuring the Sumos of VMGR-152, a Marine Corps squadron equipped with the KC-130J Hercules transport.

You’ll see most of the stuff you’d expect from a Hercules squadron- flying from austere strips, dropping special ops guys out the back, dropping loads by parachute, and some horseplay while on liberty. Good stuff. But right before the end of the video, there were a couple of brief shots of a Herc with pods hanging from the paratroop doors toward the rear of the aircraft. And so, I shot a message to Spill, asking if he knew what they were. Of course, he did, and it’s a pretty interesting bit.

Whatthehellis that.

Here’s the hooah vid:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-2p4NgKzE4]

A novel means of adding surveillance sensors to the C-130 quickly and with minimum modification is on display here at the Dubai Air Show. Highland Integrated Surveillance Systems (HISS) can replace the paratroop door on the Hercules with a roll-up door that includes a mount for sensors that retracts for takeoff and landing; a large bubble window and collapsible workstation for an observer/operator; and an equipment rack.

The Special AirBorne Mission Installation and Response system (SABIR) has already been fitted to some U.S. Navy C-130s when flying special operations missions, and to a U.S. Marine Corps C-130 in Japan. The system is attracting interest from the UAE and other air forces, according to HISS president and CEO Roger Smibert. The mount can take EO/IR sensor balls, small radars, SIGINT or electronic warfare equipment. When extended, it provides 360-degree coverage. An ejection tube for sonotubes or other SAR stores is also included. Two people can fit or remove the SABIR system in only one hour.

The modified door does not affect the C-130’s cargo-carrying capacity in any way. Moreover, a C-130 operator might fit SABIR doors to both sides of the fuselage to provide a multi-sensor capability. According to Smibert, the installation overcomes the weight limitation and turbulence issues of a nose-mounted sensor installation. The maximum payload is 400 pounds, and maximum sensor length is eight feet. The installation costs $1- to $1.5 million, exclusive of the payload.



One of the best attributes of the C-130, and most successful transports, is their versatility, their adaptability. We’ve mentioned before the Marines have taken to tasking certain of their fleet of KC-130J’s with a roll-on palletized gunship/precision strike capability under the program Harvest Hawk.

Now it turns out the Marines (and apparently the Navy as well) are using the SABIR pod system to provide its vanilla KC-130s with significant Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability.

SABIR, or Special AirBorne Installation Response system, is a series of pods that can be mounted on the troop doors of a KC-130J. The pods themselves can carry a variety of different sensors, such as imaging infrared, radar, day TV camera, or low light imaging.

A palletized, roll on/roll off operator station controls the pods and the display. More importantly, the an extensive drop in kit for communications allows the feed to be share in real time with other users, on board or off. For instance, VMGR-152 used another palletized kit to convert the tanker transport to a Direct Air Support Center, providing immediate on scene coordination and command and control for air support missions in support of Marines on the ground.

[scribd id=271084515 key=key-X0qJFO1O1hVzZNBIEHx6 mode=scroll]

And of course, the utility of such a system is limited primarily by the inventiveness of the users.  Potential missions that pop into my head immediately include ISR for ground troops, IED detection, Search and Rescue, Maritime Patrol, Fisheries Protection, support to law enforcement, environmental monitoring (such as tracking an oil spill or mapping a wildfire), and Blue Force tracking for friendly ground forces.

A further example of the versatility of the mighty Herc can be seen here, where Lockheed Martin is proposing a modified variant to the United Kingdom as a Maritime Patrol plane.

RNAS YEOVILTON, U.K. — Lockheed Martin is to offer a U.K-specific variant of its SC-130J Sea Hercules to Britain, as the U.K. looks to re-generate a maritime patrol capability.

The company says it could convert the U.K. Royal Air Force’s existing fleet of C-130J airlifters into SC-130Js, reducing procurement costs and technical risks, company officials told Aviation Week on the eve of the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day.

The Herc

On the 23rd of August, 1954, the first C-130 Hercules took to the air. They’ve been in production ever since. That’s an incredible 60 years. They’re still rolling off the lines. 

I’ve ridden in Hercs flown by the active Air Force, the Air Force Reserves, the Air National Guard, and even by the Marines. 

The Hercules is best known as a tactical intra-theater airlifter, moving up to 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. That’s still its primary job.

But such a sound basic design has lent it to adaptation to other roles as well. Famously, the various gunship versions of the AC-130 have been with us for well over 40 years. But it also served as a maritime patrol plane, a search and rescue platform, and electronic reconnaissance bird, an airborne command post, and airborne early warning  radar post, an aerial ambulance,  a weather reconnaissance plane, a drone launcher and controller, a special operations platform, a bomber,  a tanker, a firefighter, an electronic jammer, a psychological operations platform, VIP transport, civilian freighter, and a satellite recovery system.

Well over 2,300 Hercs have rolled off the line in Marietta, GA. The list of countries that operate the C-130 is so long, it’s its own wikipedia entry.

It may usually land on concrete, but it’s perfectly happy to land on dirt. Or even on steel.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5AI3YSV3M]

It can drop heavy loads via parachute, or LAPES.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgg3iRaVnbw]

It also put on a pretty good airshow!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjZMWI77b84]

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite all time planes, the Mighty Lockheed C-130 Hercules!

Combat approach

The C-130 is the backbone of USAF tactical airlift. But it is vulnerable to small arms fire during takeoff and landing. To minimize this vulnerability, they routinely use a technique known as an assault landing. Let’s just say it isn’t your usual approach into DFW or ORD.


Spotted over at Eric Palmer’s place.

Combat Talon

We covered the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment a while back. But sometimes you need something more.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on America, it was clear the next battlefield would be Afghanistan. But there was a surpising lack of intelligence about the Taliban and Al Queda in the area. The decision was made to conduct a raid by the 75th Ranger Regiment to gather intelligence and attempt to secure prisoners for interogation. How to get them into Afghanistan? That’s where the Air Forces Special Operations Wing comes in. Operating highly modified C-130s designed to penetrate deep into enemy held territory, and known as Combat Talons, the Air Force Spec Op guys flew into Afghanistan and dropped the Rangers onto an airfield. Extraction was later made by Air Force Special Operations helicopters operating from a secret base in Pakistan. When you see the Combat Talons dropping long strings of paratroops in night vision, that’s the raid I’m talking about.


Combat Talon has been around for quite a while. In the early days, an awful lot of work was put into improving the C-130s already impressive short field landing and take off performance. This clip shows the results of some testing, and why the project was dropped.


Update: Outlaw 13, our Apache pilot correspondent, informs us that the second clip was a specially modified MC-130 being tested for the aborted raid on Tehran that came to be known as Desert One.  The idea was to land in downtown Tehran. After the testing, a new plan had to be devised. I’ll poke around, but I suspect that may have had something to do with the decision to use the Navy’s RH-53s and refuel them in the desert.