MC-130P Combat Shadow


The Combat Shadow flew clandestine or low visibility, single or multi-ship low-level missions intruding politically sensitive or hostile territory to provide air refueling for special operations helicopters. The MC-130P primarily flew missions at night to reduce probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats.

Secondary mission capabilities included airdrop of leaflets, small special operations teams, bundles and combat rubber raiding craft, as well as night vision goggle operations, takeoff and landing procedures and in-flight refueling as a receiver.


Modifications to the MC-130P featured improved navigation, communications, threat detection and countermeasures systems. The Combat Shadow fleet had a fully-integrated inertial navigation and global positioning system, and night vision goggle compatible interior and exterior lighting. It also had forward looking infrared, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, night vision goggle compatible heads-up display, satellite and data-burst communications, as well as in-flight refueling capability as a receiver.

The Combat Shadow could fly in the day against a low threat. The crews flew night low-level, air refueling and formation operations using night vision goggles. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, employment tactics incorporated no external lighting and no communications to avoid radar and weapons detection.


The MC-130 came into special operations in 1991. Since that time the aircraft and its crews had been involved in virtually every major operation from Operation DESERT STORM to IRAQI FREEDOM. While these crews operated in the shadows of their more well-known and publicized AFSOC counter-parts, the MC-130P provided valuable support that helped to ensure mission success.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Air refueling for special operation forces helicopters
Builder: Lockheed
Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine
Length: 98 feet, 9 inches (30.09 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Speed: 289 mph (at sea level)
Ceiling: 33,000 feet (10,000 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Range: Beyond 4,000 miles
Crew: Officers - pilot, co-pilot, right navigator and left navigator; enlisted - flight engineer, communications systems operator and two loadmasters
Date Deployed: 1986

Point Of Contact

1st Special Operations Wing, Public Affairs Office, 344 Tully Street; Hurlburt Field, FL 32544; DSN 579-7464 or (850) 884-7464; e-mail: