US Air Force Special Operations Aircraft

The AFSOC fleet of aircraft is small but highly specialized. Hurlburt Field in Florida is the home of this command which runs its own school as well as its own test and evaluation organization. Both of these facilities allow the command to remain very agile in adopting new technologies and fitting them to their aircraft.

AC-130A/H/U Spector/Spooky Gun-ship: These are one of the most unique aircraft in the USAF inventory. A converted C-130, these very complex airframes have side firing 20mm and 30mm auto cannons (24mm Gatling gun for the AC-130U 'Spooky') and a 105mm howitzer, converted for precision fire. Both the Spector and, more so the Spooky have extensive electronic and physical countermeasures available for self-protection and jamming of enemy air defence. The 13 remaining AC-130As are the oldest Hercules airframes in the USAF inventory, but have had extensive strengthening to keep them operational and are flown by the 711th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) Air Reserve. After the loss of an AC-130H in the Gulf War, the order for AC-130Us was increased to 13. Historically the Spooky underwent an extensive testing period before being accepted for operations, in Northern Fury, that testing was undertaken while the aircraft were on the operational squadron, 8 of the 13 have been delivered with the remainder arriving at a rate of one per month.

SquadronNameWingLocation# of ACTypeRemarks
4th SOS Ghostriders 16th SOW Hurlburt Field FL 8 AC-130U
16th SOS Spectre 16th SOW Hurlburt Field FL 10 AC-130H
717th SOS White Nights 552nd Duke Field FL 13 AC-130A Air Reserve

MC-130P Combat Shadow: The Combat Shadow flies low altitude, high threat, penetration missions to provide air to air refueling for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) or other special mission helicopters. They can also Para drop small teams or cargo into a threat area. Historically these aircraft did not change designation from HC to MC until 1996, in Northern Fury they have already done so. There are 37 Combat Shadow in service, 5 in the Air Reserve; this is 9 aircraft more than actually existed in 1994.

SquadronNameWingLocation# of ACTypeRemarks
2nd SOS 16th SOW Hurlburt Field, FL8 MC-130P
5th SOS 16th SOW Hurlburt Field, FL5 MC-130P Air Force Reserve
9th SOS Night Wings 16th SOW Hurlburt Field, FL8 MC-130P
17th SOS The Jackals 353rd Kadena AB, Japan 6 MC-130P
67th SOS Night Owls 352nd RAF Mildenhal, UK 6 MC-130P
550th SOS Wolfpack 58th Kirtland AFB, NM 4 MC-130P ATEC

MC-130E/H Combat Talon I/II: The Combat Talon conducts deep penetration air drop missions in a high threat environment. Using terrain mapping radar, terrain avoidance avionics, GPS and impressive ECM capabilities, these aircraft specialize in low level long distance precision para drops deep in an opponent's territory. Also equipped with an in-flight refueling system, a recovery system for retrieving a single passenger from the ground or water when they unfurl a balloon and the Combat Talon snatches the cable, as well as several other unique capabilities, these are very specialized aircraft. AFSOC has an inventory of 24 Combat Talon I and 24 Combat Talon II aircraft, this is 10 more Combat Talon I then existed in 1994.

SquadronNameWingLocation# of ACTypeRemarks
1st SOS Anytime Anywhere 353rd Kadena AB, Japan 5 MC-130H Combat Talon II
6th SOS 16 SOW Hurlburt Field, FL 12MC-130E Combat Talon I
7th SOS Air Commandos 352nd RAF Mildenhall, UK 5 MC-130H Combat Talon II
8th SOS Blackbirds 16 SOW Hurlburt Field, FL 12MC-130E Combat Talon I
15th SOS Global Eagles 16 SOW Hurlburt Field, FL 11MC-130H Combat Talon II
550th SOS Wolfpack 58th Kirtland AFB, NM 3 MC-130H Combat Talon II

EC-130E Commando Solo (note: link refers to the EC-130J): This is a Psychological Operations aircraft that transmits programing and messages on radio, television, shortwave and military frequencies. There are six aircraft operated by 193rd Special Operations Squadron (SOS) of the Pennsylvania Air Guard.

MH-53J Pave Low III: This is a heavy lift helicopter with impressive capabilities. The two main roles are Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and insertion/extraction of Special Forces teams. This is one of the few helicopters in the world that can be fueled while in flight, and it is the most powerful helicopter in the US military. Both the USN and USMC use the CH-53 but within the USAF, AFSOC is the only user. There are 41 of these aircraft in the inventory. A history of the Pave Low helicopters is here.

SquadronNameWingLocation# of ACTypeRemarks
20th SOS Green Hornets 16 SOW Hurlburt Field, FL 12 MH-53J
21st SOS Dust Devils 352nd RAF Mildenhall, UK 12 MH-53J
31st SOS Black Knights 353rd Osan AB, SK 12 MH-53J
551st SOS Owls 58th Kirtland AFB, NM 5 MH-53J Air Reserve

MH-60G Pave Hawk : This helicopter from the UH-60 Blackhawk family augments the MH-53's in both the CSAR mission and in delivering, supporting and extracting Special Forces teams. They have an all-weather radar, a retractable refueling probe and auxiliary fuel tanks to extend both the range and the acceptable conditions under which missions can be flown. 55th SOS 'Night Hawks' operate 10 of these helicopters from Hurlburt Field, Florida.