SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Studying Development of Amphibious Aircraft

By Meredith Roaten
An MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson

Air Force Special Operation Command is looking into the development of a plane that can take off and land from the water.

AFSOC would modify an existing MC-130J to allow the special ops transport plane to work in amphibious environments, Air Force Col. Ken Kuebler,  Special Operations Command's program executive officer—fixed wing, said during a May 19 presentation at the virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, organized by the National Defense Industrial Association.

He acknowledged that the plane’s development would be an engineering challenge, but the capability would create even more challenges for adversaries as the competitive space grows, he later told reporters in a press briefing.

“It just gives us a lot of capability as we look toward a great power competition,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the military has looked at an amphibious plane. Lockheed Martin designed the C-130 Hercules on Water in the 1960s but never built it.

When asked why now is the right time to execute an old concept, Kuebler said there is now enough command interest in the capability to prioritize research and development. Kicking off feasibility studies early on in the development process will also help ensure the program’s success, he said.

SOCOM will study operational concepts and design feasibility for the project and explore options for digital design to “prove this out through a demo as quickly as possible.”

“That all leads to giving us key decision points as we move forward,” he said.

He noted that it is too early in the program to say what the mission set for the plane would be, and it should not be assumed that the plane’s mission would be the same as conventional MC-130s. It would also be “premature” to talk about a development timeline, he added.

Topics: Air Power, Air Force News

Comments (5)

Re: SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Looking for Amphibious Airplane

Bring back the Tradewind!

GKV at 11:59 AM
Re: SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Looking for Amphibious Airplane

Our Navy should go big into the amphibious plane idea. I mean they should think of transferring a lot of 7th Fleet ship operations to seaplane operations. Starting with the Herk On Water model, update to current tech, and stretched body, to build Marine "shoot-n-scoot" rapid haulers to move around Twenty times faster than LAWs are able to. Then build fleets of cruise missile/AA missile/mine/torpedo trucks to directly go after ships and subs, and defend against jets sent to attack them. Also build tankers, AWACS, EW versions and command & control planes to direct UCAVs into combat. Also build as supply planes, search & rescue, and recon, etc... The Seaplane Tender (may be semisubmersible to let the seaplane swim aboard), with accompanying LHA light carrier and LPD, tankers, and frigates and cheap AIP subs for escorts, becomes the new battle group a safe distance away as its fleet of seaplanes and aerial tankers cover the longer ranges to the battlefield

L. Bowen at 12:43 PM
Re: SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Looking for Amphibious Airplane

The best way for this to work is to copy what China, Russia, and Japan have done with their seaplanes, and that is to purpose-build an amphibian with a boat hull that resembles a whale's belly, not modify a MC-130J by adding huge floats or pontoons.

When the MC-130J lands and if one pontoon breaks, then how is the MC-130J going to balance and land on water? But if SOCOM wants armor protection from ground fire and sea mines, and a stepping platform for divers, the pontoon idea seems feasible, but note that no one else used this concept of landing on large belly pontoons. How is the amphibian MC-130J supposed to land on a runway with large pontoons even if the wheels are tucked inside the two massive pontoons?

I guess SOCOM should take it from experience and follow those countries who have achieved this before and that is to make the amphibian plane mimic nature with a whale's belly fuselage, not a Pelican wearing huge pontoon feet.

P at 7:10 PM
Re: SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Looking for Amphibious Airplane

Bring back the H-4 Hercules. The Spruce Goose had a successful test flight, so no redesign is needed!

Patrick Harris at 4:40 PM
Re: SOFIC NEWS: AFSOC Looking for Amphibious Airplane

China already has the AG600.

Tim at 5:57 PM
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