Jerry Thigpen's study on the history of the Combat Talon is the first effort to tell the story of this wonderfully capable machine. This weapons system has performed virtually every imaginable tactical event in the spectrum of conflict and by any measure is the most versatile C-130 derivative ever produced. First modified and sent to Southeast Asia (SEA) in 1966 to replace theater unconventional warfare (UW) assets that were limited in both lift capability and speed, the Talon I quickly adapted to theater UW tasking, including infiltration and resupply and psychological warfare operations into North Vietnam. After spending four years in SEA and maturing into a highly respected UW weapons system, the Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) chose the Combat Talon to lead the night, low-level raid on the North Vietnamese prison camp at Son Tay. Despite the outcome of the operation, the Talon I cemented its reputation as the weapons system of choice for long-range, clandestine operations.
In the period following the Vietnam War, United States Air Force (USAF) special operations gradually lost its political and financial support, which was graphically demonstrated in the failed Desert One mission into Iran. Thanks to congressional supporters like Earl Hutto of Florida and Dan Daniel of Virginia, funds for aircraft upgrades and military construction projects materialized to meet the ever-increasing threat to our nation. Under the leadership of such committed, hard-driven officers as Brenci, Uttaro, Ferkes, Meller, and Thigpen, the crew force became the most disciplined in our Air Force. It was capable of penetrating hostile airspace at night, in a low-level mountainous environment, covertly to execute any number of unconventional warfare missions.
The highly trained, disciplined Talon I crews led the invasions of Grenada in October 1983 and Panama in December 1989. The long-range "pathfinder" capability of the Talon Is made them the indispensable choice for these classic airfield seizure operations. In Desert Storm the Talon Is reverted to their Vietnam psychological warfare role by dropping millions of leaflets over Iraq and Kuwait. Additionally, they dropped eleven 15,000-pound BLU-82B bombs. Today the Talon I largely fulfills the penetrating tanker role, which includes the low-level penetration of hostile airspace and electronic countermeasures (ECM) protection for combat search and rescue rotary-wing forces.
Contents * Foreword * PREFACE * A WORD FROM THE COMMANDER * INTRODUCTION * Chapter 1 * Establishment of Combat Talon * Chapter 2 * The Combat Talon Weapons System * Chapter 3 * Combat Knife (The Pope Air Force Base Years: 1965-74) * Chapter 4 * Combat Spear (The Vietnam War Years: 1966-74) * Chapter 5 * Combat Arrow (Europe: 1968-74) * Chapter 6 * The Son Tay Prisoner of War Raid (1970) * Chapter 7 * Between the Wars (1975-79) * Chapter 8 * The Iranian Rescue Mission (1979-80) * Chapter 9 * Project Honey Badger and Credible Sport (1980-81) * Chapter 10 * From Desert One to Point Salines (1981-83) * Chapter 11 * Road to Combat Talon II (1984-89) * Chapter 12 * Operation Just Cause (1989-90) * Chapter 13 * Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-91) * Chapter 14 * Mount Pinatubo to Operation Joint Endeavor (1991-95) * Chapter 15 * Operation Assured Response to the New Millennium (1996-2000) * EPILOGUE * Appendices * Appendix A * Live Fulton STARS Made by Combat Talon Aircraft * Appendix B * Partial Summary of Upgrades, MOD-90 Combat Talon I * GLOSSARY