MC-130W Dragon Spear visits Robins

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A special recognition ceremony took place on the flight line Dec. 2, honoring the efforts made by members of the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron, now the 402nd Expeditionary Maintenance Depot team.

The occasion took place in front of an MC-130W Dragon Spear, which arrived for the day with its crew, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

A group of 15 team members received a coin and letter of appreciation from Jeff Stanley, Special Operations Forces/Personnel Recovery Division chief.

The Robins team assisted U.S. Special Operations Command Detachment 1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. from April 2009 to April 2010 with two prototypes that would become the MC-130W.

The aircraft is a modified C-130H that is a highly-specialized and sophisticated weapons system, able to provide close air support missions for America's Special Forces.

"It's not often that active-duty Air Force are actually hand-building aircraft," said Lt. Col. James "Phil" Smith, Special Operations Forces/Personnel Recovery Fixed Wing branch deputy. "Those two prototypes were so successful that Air Force Special Operations Command and USSOCOM both wanted more of them."

A production contract was signed to build 12 of the aircraft. Along with an advanced situational awareness suite, the aircraft's Precision Strike package includes precision-guided munitions, and the ability to drop 250-pound bombs from its wing tips, or shoot 30 mm close air-support guns. Two MX-20 hi-def optical sensors are also used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

"It was USSOCOM's number one fire-power need," explained Smith. "It was very urgent as we don't have enough gunships. This fills that capability gap. This aircraft - from concept to combat - happened in 18 months. That's pretty phenomenal considering weapons development today. We had a proven concept that was killing the enemy."

"While the job we do here at the depot is very important to sustain the aircraft, another thing that Robins does is develop and deliver new combat capability," he added.

The CLSS team, made up of 25 to 30 personnel, added 2,000 to 3,000 wiring connections and bundles, and conducted multiple structural modifications and avionics upgrades while at Eglin.

"Our team's effort was the onset of the production line," said Bill Wheaton, lead team chief from Robins at the time. "Everyone who touched it had a contribution that was remarkable. Out of engineers, sheet metal mechanics, electrical systems technicians and crew chiefs, everybody came together as a cohesive team."

The MC-130W includes a crew of six: pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, navigators and loadmasters. Maj. Aric Holly, 73rd SOS pilot and commander of last week's Dragon Spear, reiterated the aircraft's tremendous capabilities and high demand for missions.

"It's definitely a challenging mission set," said Holly. "It boils down to being able to deliver precise fire power to meet the needs of ground forces. A lot of work done by the people here at Robins has made that a reality."

Co-pilot Capt. David Sleeper agreed. "The technology helps us communicate concisely with forces, and have a good awareness of what they're trying to do, and how we are trying to support them," he said.

Among other features of the MC-130W, were structural improvements with the addition of a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation, allowing it to conduct in-flight refueling as a receiver. Refueling pods also allow for the ability to fuel special operations helicopters and the CV-22 Osprey. The 73rd SOS is one of eight flying squadrons within the 27th Special Operations Wing.

Lt. Col. Smith added that although 12 MC-130W Dragon Spears are in existence, work will continue as the battle landscape changes.

"We will modify this aircraft to keep ahead of the enemy," he said.