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MC-130H Combat Talon II return from deployment

Families wave at the crew from an MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft as they return from a deployment Oct. 6, 2021 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The MC-130H is being phased out in time for the new MC-130J Commando II aircraft to take over the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

Families wave at the crew from an MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft as they return from a deployment Oct. 6, 2021 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The MC-130H is being phased out in time for the new MC-130J Commando II aircraft to take over the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to Hurlburt Field, Florida unload baggage from an MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft Oct. 6, 2021. Two MC-130H’s returned from a deployment to see their families waiting on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to Hurlburt Field, Florida unload baggage from an MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft Oct. 6, 2021. Two MC-130H’s returned from a deployment to see their families waiting on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

An MC-130H Combat Talon II Aircraft flies over the Hurlburt Field, Florida flightline as they return from a deployment Oct. 6, 2021. Two MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft crews returned from a deployment to see their families waiting on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

An MC-130H Combat Talon II Aircraft flies over the Hurlburt Field, Florida flightline as they return from a deployment Oct. 6, 2021. Two MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft crews returned from a deployment to see their families waiting on the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rito Smith)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

Two MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft and their crews returned to Hurlburt Field, Oct. 6, 2021. Families patiently awaited the arrival of their loved ones as the aircraft flew in and landed.

The aircraft most recently supported Operation ALLIES REFUGE and the final evacuation of Afghanistan. The MC-130H will be replaced by the MC-130J Commando II aircraft as the Air Force and Air Force Special Operations Command look to modernize the special operations mobility fleet.

“The MC-130J is going to be a more capable aircraft,” said Capt. Ramiro Leenen, a combat systems officer and chief of tactics at the 15th Special Operations Squadron. “It will have a longer range, more speed and be able to haul more things for us.”

The aircraft first came to Hurlburt Field in June of 1992. It went through various tests and then began flying in October of 1992.

“There are also some terrain following and avoidance radar systems in developmental testing,” said Leenen. “We currently have two of the MC-130J Commando II aircraft with that capability in testing right now.”

MC-130H’s have provided constant support since 2001 for special operations missions involving high-altitude air refueling, cargo and personnel transport, airdrop and tactical infiltration and exfiltration.

“The Talon II brought low level infiltration capabilities in adverse weather to the fight,” said Leenen. “We also brought in a refuellable C-130 which allowed us to extend our range.”

They have also been utilized for humanitarian missions worldwide such as Operation Unified Response in Haiti and Operation Tomodachi in Japan.

“I participated in the Hurricane Maria Humanitarian effort and we deployed to pick up a team of 10 doctors without borders,” said Leenen. “Nobody was able to come into the airfield because they didn’t have power and we were able to approach and land on the runway to extract these doctors and fly them around to perform their duties.”

The aircraft is well known for missions such as; evacuation of non-combatant Americans from conflicts in Liberia, evacuating civilians from the Republic of the Congo in 1997, participating in combat operations in the Balkans during Operation ALLIED FORCE, and in 2003 it was the first U.S. aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport to support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It’s bittersweet for them to phase out,” said Leenen. “We have been flying them for a long time, and I feel like we made a difference with them.