Left side plaque
The MC-130E Combat Talon I is a specially modified Lockheed C-130E Hercules designed provide a unique airpower capability for United States Special Operations Forces. From its origin in 1965, the Combat Talon
performed infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, aerial and ground refueling, and Fulton surface-to-air recovery missions supporting our nation's most sensitive and demanding missions: A total of eighteen Talons were fielded through the Air Force Big Safari program, and at the peak of the program fourteen of these extremely capable and versatile aircraft were in service throughout the three major theaters of operation. Remarkably, only 4 have been lost to hostilities or accidents despite the complex and high risk Talon mission. Early MC-130Es were camouflaged with a black and green paint scheme, and were commonly referred to as "Blackbirds."
During its forty five year plus life span, the configuration of the Combat Talon evolved to remain in step with emerging technology and challenges of changing enemy threats. At the heart of this unique aircraft is a terrain
following radar, forward-looking
infrared system, and sophisticated electronic counter measure equipment. Over the years, additional capabilities such as aerial refueling, improved navigation avionics, and enhanced defensive systems were added through modification programs. This aircraft (#64-0567) is outfitted with the Fulton Surface-To Air Recovery System, and led an assault force into heavy fighting during Operation JUST CAUSE (Panama) in December 1989.
Right side plaque
Combat Talons were first used in Southeast Asia in 1966 when four aircraft deployed from Pope AFB under Project Stray Goose. In 1967 the program suffered its only combat loss when a plane crashed in hostile territory. During the 1970 Son Tay mission to rescue American prisoners of war from a North Vietnamese camp, two Combat Talons led an assault force into heavily defended enemy territory. A decade later MC-130Es would once again play a pivotal role by leading a rescue attempt of
American citizens held hostage in Iran. On 24 April 1980 the Talons flew into the rendezvous site known as Desert One to deliver resources and personnel for the daring assault. Although the mission was aborted and eight US Airmen, and Marines
perished, Operation EAGLE CLAW became the catalyst for far reaching changes in the special operations community and the creation of United States Special Operations Command. During the 1980s, Talons flew countless missions of national importance including combat missions in support of operations in
Grenada (URGENT FURY 1983) and in Panama (JUST CAUSE 1989). When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Talon aircraft and crews were called on to fly special operations missions in Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. After 9/11, the venerable MC-130E flew countless combat missions throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of operation.