Assembly work has been completed on the first Lockheed Martin HC-130J combat rescue tanker aircraft for the USAF’s Air Combat Command.

The air force will formally accept the HC-130 with new configuration on 19 April and take delivery of the aircraft later this year.

The HC-130, now in the painting facility, will undergo a production flight test to meet an initial operating capability date in mid-2012.

The aircraft is an extended-range, search and rescue and combat search and rescue version of the C-130 Hercules transport.

The USAF’s aircrew operate HC-130 for night, low-level, air refuelling and airdrop operations.