The US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. a $56.1m contract for the low-rate initial production of the MC-130J airborne mission networking programme.

The contract provides for the procurement of production kits, spares, interim-contractor support, programme management, and provisioning support. The contract will be completed in May 2023.

The MC-130J Commando II is a special operations tanker aircraft. Lockheed Martin manufactures the platform for the US Air Force (USAF) Special Operations Command.

The MC-130J can be deployed worldwide for missions requiring clandestine, single ship/formation, low-level in-flight refuelling for helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft of the US Special Operation Forces. The aircraft supports infiltration/exfiltration and resupply missions, and can also perform air drops and landings on remote airfields.

Sustaining special operations

The United Kingdom has made a move to put its C-130 fleet on the market since October 2022. The country has since adopted the A400M Atlas transport aircraft to succeed the legacy fleet.

There has also been some deliberation over the continued use of the C-130 model in the USAF. There have been concerns whether the USAF should continue using HC-130J, a transport variant.

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GlobalData intelligence expects a slow, but steady growth in spending on the USAF’s HC-130J fleet between 2023 and 2028. By which time, GlobalData expects spending to stop, as the DoD will start prioritising its future transport aircraft fleets.

The continued support of the MC-130J in a special operations capacity suggests the USAF’s reluctance to discard the enduring model.


Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing met on 29 March to discuss the 2024 Budget request – comprising over $133bn worth of programmes, the largest of any hardware subcommittees – for military fixed-wing tactical and training aircraft programmes.

The subcommittee found that long-range strike and long-range logistical capabilities are of the highest priority regarding the needs of the USAF. Especially since “the National Defence Strategy is clear in its focus on China as our nation’s pacing threat” in the wide-ranging Indo-Pacific theatre so far away from the US.

The subcommittee chairman, the US Representative Rob Wittman, stated that long-range capabilities “are essential components for executing INDOPACOM’s military strategy and enabling operational success of the joint force competing against the tyranny of distance in response to ever-increasing Chinese aggression.