U.S. Air Force Reserve’s Swing-Role C-130J Hurricane Hunters
The U.S. Air Force Reserve Command commemorated the reserve program’s 100 years on June 28 by staging a mock WC-130J Super Hercules “Hurricane Hunter” deployment from Andrews AFB, Maryland, and dropping a 16-in. biodegradable rainfall and windspeed data-gathering dropsonde into the Atlantic Ocean.
The capsule was launched at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, near Norfolk, Virginia. Departing at 11:45 a.m. local time, the WC-130J climbed to 13,000 ft. heading south along the Potomac River, after deconflicting with local operations of the Bell UH-1N Hueys assigned to the Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Sqdn. The mission is summed up by one airman as “earth, wind and fire,” because its C-130s often double as airlifters and special-purpose aircraft assigned to weather reconnaissance, aerial firefighting and spraying duties.
The WC-130J on hand, Tail No. 85307, is one of 10 Weatherbirds assigned to the tactical airlift wing at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. Reporting to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the aircrews crisscross the four-engine turboprop through the eyes of tropical storms and hurricanes, reportedly improving the accuracy of weather prediction models by 20-30%. The WC-130J was joined at Andrews by an AFRC C-130H aerial firefighter from Peterson AFB, Colorado, and an aerial spraying aircraft from Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station, Ohio.
Editor's note: This gallery was updated to correct the name of a WC-130J loadmaster.