First MC-130J Commando II is Delivered
On May 29, 2020, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced that they have successfully delivered to the United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) the first MC-130J (Tail Number 08-5697) Commando II equipped with the advanced Airborne Mission Networking (AbMN) secure communications suite.
According to SNC, they have been awarded a contract to specially modify MC-130J and AC-130J for AFSOC.
SNC stated in a press release that the AbMN suite improves interoperability between special operations platforms as well as other U.S. Air Force (USAF), Army, Navy, Marine and coalition platforms.
The AbMN suite improves interoperability by unifying data from various components that collectively make up a mission system. This permits USAF operators to focus on one set of critical mission data rather than monitoring multiple systems.
The suite enables battlefield management and threat avoidance; generates customized surveillance information; and provides situational awareness for air, ground, and command and control nodes. The suite has applications for mapping and situational awareness, data routing, video recording and playback, and user interface control. It also features data link radios and supporting equipment including 10 subsystems that are interfaced to work together. In an effort to reduce crew workload, the AbMN suite integrates with existing equipment so pilots, crew and combat systems operators can use devices that are already known. A small radome has been added behind the cockpit to the top of the fuselage and is believed to be internal to the AbMN Suite.
Another modification to the MC-130J Commando II is the addition of the Silent Knight Radar (SKR) to the nose of the aircraft. The SKR is a terrain-following / terrain avoidance radar. The new radar allows Special Forces to fly their aircraft at 100ft above ground level in straight and turning flight at speeds up to 300 knots. The first aircraft is currently undergoing testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The Silent Knight Radar has been on the wish list of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) since 2000. Special Operations units such as the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR) and the US Air Force Special Operations Command have already incorporated the SKR into their MH-60M, MH-47G and CV-22B aircraft. The addition of the SKR to the MC-130J will vastly improve the capabilities of the aircraft to refuel Special Operations Rotorcraft in flight in clandestine locations. The US Air Force plans to upgrade all of their MC-130J aircraft with the SKR.
A second MC-130J (Tail Number 14-5800, seen here) was spotted outside the SNC facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado.