Lockheed Martin will begin a five-month series of flight tests of the MC-130J Combat Shadow after completing first flight on 22 April.

The first MC-130J is scheduled for delivery in September to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, where it will start replacing the Air Force Special Operations Command's MC-130Ps that entered service in 1986.

 MC-130 445 credit Lockheed
 © Lockheed Martin
The USAF plans to buy as many as 37 MC-130Js under a $1.6 billion programme through 2016. The first 15 MC-130Js are already under contract, with five more aircraft authorised to be on contract.

Lockheed designed the MC-130J, which performs low-altitude aerial refuelings for helicopters and tiltrotors, using the KC-130J tanker as the baseline.

MC130J 445 roll out credit Lockheed 
© Lockheed Martin
The first MC-130J rolled-out of Lockheed Martin's final assembly plant on 6 April
The production line at Marietta, Georgia, was modified to allow in-line modifications, such as the installation of a boom refuelling receptacle. The MC-130J also adds more powerful electrical generators, an electro-optical/infrared sensor and an enhanced service life wing.

AFSOC is planning to deploy the first MC-130J operational unit in fiscal year 2012.

Source: Flight International