The EC-130J Commando Solo, a specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport, conducts Military Information Support Operations and civil affairs broadcasts in FM, TV and military communications bands. The Wing has expanded its mission sets in recent years to include clandestine, low-visibility, low-level resupply and infiltration/exfiltration missions for Special Operations Forces by airdrop or airland with the EC-130J Super J aircraft. The Super J aircraft is an upgraded “slick” aircraft with larger generators, air refueling capability and a CSO station installed on the flight deck. These missions are typically flown at night to reduce probability of detection in politically sensitive or hostile territories.
The 193rd Special Operations Wing operates these aircraft. The unit has participated in a multitude of recent combat operations, to include Operations UNIFIED RESPONSE, UNIFIED PROTECTOR, ODYSSEY DAWN, ENDURING FREEDOM, and INHERENT RESOLVE. A comprehensive mission set list includes:
- Military Information Support Operations broadcasts
- Airdrop Missions
- MISO leaflet
- Military free-fall (MFF), to include high altitude personnel airdrops (HALO/HAHO)
- Static line personnel
- Container delivery system (CDS)
- Heavy Equipment
- Low-cost aerial delivery system (LCADS; LCLA, LCLV, LCHV)
- Airland Missions
- Combat offload
- Maximum effort procedures
- Forward Area Refueling Procedures (FARP)
- Low-level navigation procedures
Many modifications have been made to the aircraft. These include enhanced navigation systems, self-protection equipment, air refueling and the capability of broadcasting analog FM radio and analog color TV on all worldwide standards.
The airborne radio and television broadcast mission originated in the mid-1960s with the EC-121 (known as Coronet Solo). The mission later transitioned to the EC-130E (1980) and eventually to the EC-130J (2004). Soon after the 193rd SOW received EC-130s, the Air National Guard unit participated in the rescue of American citizens in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983. Then known as Volant Solo, the aircraft acted as an airborne radio station, keeping the citizens of Grenada informed about U.S. military action. Several years later in 1989, Volant Solo was instrumental in the success of coordinated psychological operations in Operation Just Cause. During this mission, it broadcasted throughout the initial phases of the operation, helping to end the Noriega regime.
In 1990, the 193rd joined the newly formed Air Force Special Operations Command, and the wing's aircraft were redesignated Commando Solo, with no change in mission. In 1990-91, Commando Solo was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Its missions included broadcasting the "Voice of the Gulf" and other highly successful programs intended to convince Iraqi soldiers to surrender.
In 1994, Commando Solo was used to broadcast radio and TV messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was featured in these broadcasts, which contributed to the orderly transition from military rule to democracy.
Continuing its tradition, in 1997 the Commando Solo supported the U.N. Operation Joint Guard with radio and TV broadcasts over Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of stabilization forces operations. In 1998, the unit and its aircraft participated in Operation Desert Thunder, a deployment to Southwest Asia to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Commando Solo was again sent into action in 1999 in support of Operation Allied Force. The aircraft was tasked to broadcast radio and television into Kosovo to prevent ethnic cleansing and assist in the expulsion of the Serbs from the region. In 2001, these aircraft broadcasted messages to the local Afghan population and Taliban soldiers during Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2003, the Commando Solo was deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit has also deployed in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 to the Middle East in support of overseas contingency operations. The first overseas contingency operations of the Super-J aircraft performing the Special Operations Forces – Air Mobility secondary mission occurred in 2010.
Primary Function: Military Information Support Operation
Secondary Function: Special Operations Forces – Air Mobility
Contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Co.
Power Plant: AE2100D3 six-blade turboprops
Thrust: 4,637 shaft horsepower, each engine
Wingspan: 133 feet (40.3 meters)
Length: 98 feet (29.7 meters)
Height: 39 feet (11.8 meters)
Cruise speed: 335 mph
Ceiling: 28,000 feet (8,534 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: CS - 164,000 pounds (74,390 kilograms); SJ – 155,000 pounds (70,306 kilograms)
Range: 2,300 nautical miles
Crew: Pilot, Copilot, Combat Systems Officer, Mission Crew Supervisor, three Electronic Communications Systems operators and two Loadmasters
Initial operating capability: 2004
Unit Cost: EC-130J CS, $110 million;
EC-130SJ Super J, $85 million
Inventory: EC-130J CS, Active force, 0; Reserve, 0; ANG, 3
EC-130SJ Super J, Active force, 0; Reserve, 0; ANG, 4
(Current as of December 2015)