Air Force Special Operations looking to test amphibious MC-130J in 2022

Air Force Special Operations aims to test the MC-130J Hercules transport aircraft’s amphibious capability in 2022, the commander said Monday.

Air Force Special Operations Command commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife told reporters at the annual Air Force Association’s Air Space and Cyber conference that the goal is for a “true amphibious” ability to land on both sea and land, with a flying demonstration potentially happening in late 2022.

Slife called the idea an “experimentation” to see if it can be done, but that an aggressive schedule — which depends on procurement and fielding — could have an MC-130J demonstration happening in the next 15 months.

“It would really be with a single airplane to prove that we can actually validate the models that we’ve built, to validate the data that we’ve predicted through the digital engineering thread, and then to make some decisions about where we want to go in terms of fielding the capability more broadly,” Slife said at a roundtable with reporters.

Although the idea of an amphibious C-130 cargo plane isn’t new, AFSOC indicated it was gaining momentum earlier this year.

The amphibious MC-130J would be better equipped for the shift in focus to littoral regions and seaborne special operations, the AFSOC noted last week in a press release.

Slife added that an amphibious platform was needed to enhance capabilities in the Indo-Pacific as the military shifts its focus from Afghanistan and Iraq toward the Pacific.

“Our regional focus around the world has obviously shifted,” Slife said, and that region is characterized by vast bodies of water that need to be considered.

“Rather than wholesale, clean-sheet acquisition programs, we need to be looking at how to use the relatively modernized fleet that we have in new and novel ways,” Slife said.