WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. – The 106th Rescue Wing based at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, presented the first of four new HC-130J Combat King IIs, call sign “King 76” during a MAY 17 ceremony held on base.
The HC-130J, officially known as aircraft 16-5863, was designated as the “Spirit of Long Island” during the ceremony to highlight how special its arrival is. It is the first time in the 72-year history of the 106th that it has received brand new aircraft straight from the factory, according to wing commander Col. Michael Bank.
Typically, the National Guard gets aircraft that have been phased out of the active components of the military. Maj. Gen. Raymond Shields, the New York State adjutant general, added that units across the state can expect this to change, with brand-new aircraft being delivered to various units across the New York National Guard.
The wing, which also flies the HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter, uses the Combat King to conduct search and rescue missions domestically and in combat environments.
With the arrival of these brand new aircraft, the 106th will be able to increase its capabilities over the aging HC-130P/Ns currently assigned to them, according to wing leadership.
Bank said that this is another significant event in the long history of the wing’s 102nd Rescue Squadron, who the new aircraft will be assigned to. The squadron traces its origins back to 1908 and the 1st Aero Company, when in 1921 it became the 102nd Observation Squadron, one of the original 29 such squadrons in the Army National Guard.
“The history of the 102nd is rooted with the pioneers of aviation, the birth of airpower and the nucleus of the Air National Guard,” Bank said of the squadron, which is the oldest unit in the Air National Guard.
Carrying the latest in technology will “enable the 106th Rescue Wing to conduct personnel recovery in a highly dynamic environment,” Bank said. Since taking on the role of rescue wing in 1975, the 106th has provided support for space shuttle launches, conducted the longest over-water rescue mission in an HH-60, deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and been involved in numerous other operations over land and sea.
Some of the improvements the new aircraft feature are improved navigation, threat detection and countermeasures systems and greater range than the older aircraft it is replacing. These variants of the C-130 are the only fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force.
Along with recovery missions, the 106th explained that these aircraft can also conduct humanitarian assistance operations, disaster response, emergency aeromedical evacuation and noncombatant evacuation operations. With three officers and two enlisted loadmasters, the HC-130J can carry a payload of 35,000 pounds, fly at a speed of 362 mph with a range of more than 4,000 miles. This is an improvement of 5,000 pounds of payload capacity and increased speed up from 289 miles per hour over the outgoing HC-130P/N.
“We are proud and grateful that we can accept it and employ it,” Bank said.