The HC-130Js, which deployed with more than 60 aircrew, support and maintenance personnel, bring a new set of capabilities to the airspace in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. During the deployment, the aircraft will be used for personnel recovery, ensuring U.S. personnel do not become isolated.
"It's the start of another era," said Lt. Col. Gary Symon, the 71st RQS director of operations. "We flew the P-model aircraft here for about 15 to 16 years, throughout multiple deployments, and now it's this new aircraft's turn."
Replacing the HC-130P/N model aircraft, the HC-130J features improved navigation, threat detection and countermeasure systems, among other additions. It has been at Moody since July 2013.
"The previous aircraft were built in the early 1960s," Symon said. "There's been significant technological improvement. They can fly faster, they can fly higher, they can carry more and they burn about 10 percent less fuel, so it's much more efficient. Additionally, this aircraft is capable of air-to-air refueling, provides heavy equipment airdrop and has improved sensors on it for personnel recovery."
Equally as important to the mission as having the best possible aircraft is having the people to support it, Symon said.
"They're trained and ready to go," he said. "Every single one of the individuals here has worked very hard over the last couple of months to get themselves combat-mission ready and prepared to go downrange and prove these capabilities."