The US Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center has certified Lockheed Martin’s new C-130J Super Hercules variants as "effective, suitable and mission capable."

The new variants include the HC-130J Combat King II and the MC-130J Commando II aircraft, which will be used by the USAF to restructure its existing HC, MC and AC-130 gunship fleets.

Lockheed Martin C-130 programs vice president and general manager George Shultz said: "We took a KC-130J tanker and, through in-line production design changes and significant capability enhancements, produced the current HC and MC aircraft.

"The C-130J is without equal in terms of its multi-role, multi-mission flexibility and availability. No aircraft in production, or in development, can match the capabilities of the Super Hercules."

Demonstrating the proven design, reliability and technology of the C-130J, the HC/MC programme initial contract was awarded in mid-2008 and the first ahead-of-schedule flight took place on 29 July 2010.

Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to deliver 27 MC-130J and 15 HC-130J aircraft.

The HC-130J is designed to serve as the personnel recovery/combat search and rescue aircraft for Air Combat Command, whereas the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) will use the MC-130J as the Special Operations tanker aircraft.

Delivering airdrop/airland, low-level helicopter air-to-air refuelling and forward-area ground refuelling capability, the HC-130J features advanced multispectral sensors and 60/90 kVA generators, expanded avionics, modernised refuelling system and enhanced cargo handling system.

The MC-130J is based on the US Marines Corps KC-130J tanker and is capable of missions requiring clandestine single or multiship low-level aerial refuelling of the AFSOC.

Image: the Second MC-130J Combat Shadow II. Photo: courtesy of Todd McQueen, Lockheed Martin.