The US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is to retire the last group of MC-130P Combat Shadow special mission aircraft from the Pacific region this month.

The 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) marked the beginning of the MC-130P retirement, with the last final formation flight taking place at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

17th SOS commander lieutenant colonel Nathan Colunga said: "This event marks the historic beginning of the end for the MC-130P Combat Shadow in the Pacific.

"It has served our command well, but ultimately it is time to retire the fleet and bring out the MC-130J Commando II as its replacement."

Manufactured in the 1960s, Lockheed Martin-built MC-130P is a modified C-130E/H series airframe designed for infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces. It is also utilized for air refuelling of special operations helicopter and tilt-rotor aircraft.

"This event marks the historic beginning of the end for the MC-130P Combat Shadow in the Pacific."

Previously designated HC-130N/P, the aircraft entered service with AFSOC in the mid-1980s. It conducted critical air refuelling missions in the late 1980s during ‘Operation Just Cause’ in Panama and the early 1990s during ‘Operation Desert Storm’.

In the Pacific region alone, the aircraft supported more than a dozen named operations. This included combat missions during ‘Operations Enduring Freedom’ and ‘Iraqi Freedom’ to humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations across Asia.

The last group of Kadena Combat Shadows are scheduled to leave for the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, US, this month, while the final MC-130P from the Pacific is set to retire in April 2015.

May 2015 is the scheduled decommission date for the last USAF MC-130P Combat Shadow.

Image: Two USAF MC-130P Combat Shadows fly over the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / airman 1st class Keith James.

Defence Technology