Air Force public affairs exposes Spec. Ops aircraft to public despite OPSEC crackdown

Defense News released cockpit footage from one of the four MC-130Hs operated by the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The US Air Force allowed journalists to liberally film inside of an Air Force Special Operations Group MC-130 at an airbase in Japan, a bizarre choice considering the organization’s recent public lockdown concerning operational security.

Allowing Defense News crews aboard a MC130H Combat Talon II, the Air Commandos of the 353rd Special Operations Group gave reporters an in-depth look at what the aircraft is like, including allowing them to film inside the cockpit.

While the Combat Talon IIs are due to be replaced by MC-130J Commando IIs, the aircraft is still one of valuable pieces of equipment that regularly drops special troops and equipment -often as clandestinely as possible- into hotspots around the world.

A 320th Special Tactics Squadron operator maintains security while a U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II stages a forward area refueling point (FARP) site Feb. 20, 2018, at Chandy Range, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force)

The Defense News “inside look” into the Combat Talon II, while no doubt interesting, was a curious move by the US Air Force, who recently came under scrutiny for effectively restricting their Public Affairs branch’s communication with the press in an effort to reorganize procedures involved when speaking to the public.

Citing the potential dangers posed in the near future by peer-level adversaries, USAF Chief of Staff David Goldfein defended the “lockdown” and addressed issues moving forward.

“We are coming out of 17 years of conflict where we really haven’t been in the great power competition game and so therefore we have been a little looser on the things we talk about and then we as an Air Force had three of four instances in a row where we just skirted the edge. We just got to the point where the secretary [of the Air Force] and I were just uncomfortable about the operational details we were talking about,” Goldfein said.

While nearing replacement age, the Combat Talon II is no slouch. With over 18 in USAF inventory, this covert taxi cab can fly out to 2,700 nautical miles on a full tank, refuel other aircraft, drop commandos behind enemy lines, keep them supplied and, if need be, pick them up- be it a quick landing or the more dramatic (albeit officially discontinued) surface-to-air recovery system, better known as the “Fulton system.”

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