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Book Review
Special Operations Command.
US Air Force Special Operations. Modelers Data File Extra 1.
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by: Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]

Originally published on:

A glimpse into the rather secretive world of the United States Air Forces Special Operation Command. The book published by SAM Publications and written by Rick Llinares and Andy Evans takes a look at the aircraft and equipment of this unit. This title is the first book in SAM Publications new range, Modelers Data File Extra.


Chapter 1. Special Operations, History and Overview.
Chapter 2. The AC-130 Gunship.
Chapter 3. The MH-53 Pave Low.
Chapter 4. The MC-130 Combat Talon.
Chapter 5. The CV-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor.
Chapter 6. The MC-130P Combat Shadow.
Chapter 7. The EC-130 Commando Solo.
Chapter 8. The MC-130W Combat Spear.
Appendix I. Glossary of terms.
Appendix II. XFC-130H Credible Sport.
Appendix III. Aircraft Specifications.

Ch 1. Special Operations History and Overview.
The chapter looks at the rather ad hoc beginnings of this unit. The 'Special Flight Section' of the 12th AF 5th Bombardment Wing flying converted B-17's, B-24's and B-25's as well as C-47's from bases in North Africa, as well as the 885th Bombardment Group [the Carpetbaggers] flying out of the UK. The Group were charged with dropping supplies and agents and retrieving Allied airmen from behind enemy lines. Later as the 1st Air Commando Group they expanded their role into unconventional warfare and counter insurgency operations against Communist forces. It was during the Vietnam War that the unit became what we are familiar with today. A watershed for SOC was the failed attempt to rescue hostage in Tehran during operation 'Eagle Claw'. The reorginisation and rebirth of the Group and their development of men, training and equipment in theaters such as the Balkans, Iraq, Panama and Afghanistan. There is also a short but very interesting description of the operating units within SOC.

Ch 2. AC-130 Gunship, Spooky and Spectre.
Possibly the most well known aircraft in SOC, the AC-130 superseded the AC-47. The chapter describes the role of the AC-130H/U: close air support, air interdiction, and force protection. The AC-130 has made it's mark from the Ho Chi Min trail and is presently engaged in Afghanistan. The chapter not only describes the aircraft and the equipment, but discusses the role of the crew. The text is supported with some excellent images of the aircraft in the air and on the ground. There are also images of the inside of the aircraft. Particularly interesting are the images of a crew member loading the 105mm Howitzer. There are six port side colour profiles of the AC-130H & U
At the end of the chapter is a walk around featuring more excellent images of these mighty gunships, allowing the study of the various antennae, surveillance equipment, armament, engine heat shielding, underwing pods as well as images of the interior and cockpit. Particularly interesting is the images of the LLITV system used by the AC-130H, mounted in a bay on the port side fuselage, just aft of the front undercarriage.

Ch 3. MH-53 Pave Low.
The chapter describes the role of the MH-53, low level, long range, undetected penetration into denied space by day or night. The chapter charts the development of this large rotary wing aircraft from the HH-53 Jolly Green Giant up to the MH-53M.The chapter describes the electronic capabilities that enable the MH-53 to operate in any weather at anytime dropping or retrieving troops or rescuing service personnel from behind enemy lines. Judging from the many images included in this chapter, the MH-53 can certainly look after itself, with the number of self defence weaponry pocking out of the aircraft. The images are very good providing a wealth of detail of the MH-53 in the air, on the land and at sea. There are also some inspiring images for those that enjoy creating dioramas. Included towards the end of the chapter are four port side colour profiles of the MH-53J and M. The walk around is only four pages, but it focuses on the areas that modelers will really appreciate. There are useful images of the cockpit and cargo hold, and it's also interesting looking at some of the stress induced ripples on the rear cargo door.

Ch 4. MC-130 Combat Talon.
Their mission is infiltration, exfiltration and the supplying of ground forces. It is also tasked with aerial refueling of SOC helicopters and Ospreys. The chapter describes the role of the adaptable MC-130 as it can fulfill various missions, such as dropping personnel, supporting rotary and tilt winged aircraft with inflight refueling, cargo and leaflet drops and even delivering the BLU-82B 'daisy cutter' 15,000lb bomb. The chapter describes both Combat Tallon I and II, with a detailed commentary on the systems and their use on the Combat Talon II during a mission. the aircraft are capable of dropping supplies of up to 22,000lbs at 250ft, while traveling at around 250kt. Also there are details of the various theatres these aircraft have operated in. Again the supporting images are excellent and show the various camouflage schemes, not one aircraft seem to have the same pattern. There are six port side colour profiles, two of the Combat Tallon I and four of the Combat Tallon II. The walk around images provide ample opportunity to see the two distinct noses, the 'Duckbill' and the 'ex-Fulton', of these aircraft.

Ch 5. CV-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor.
As mentioned earlier, operation 'Iron Claw' demonstrated to the US Military the need for a new type of aircraft that had VTOL and STOL capabilities. Not only would it carry troops and equipment, but carry out it's mission at speeds greater than a helicopter. The V-22 Osprey was the result. The Air Forces designation for the Osprey is the CV-22, while the Marines call it the MV-22 [no I have not written the designations down incorrectly]. The chapter looks at the the development of the aircraft and some of the technical problems that had to be overcome. It's first operational use was not in combat, but was used to ferry supplies to disaster torn Honduras. The equipment and mission is also discussed in the chapter. The images are again very good and illustrate the enormous size of the props. There are four colour profiles. The walk around images are very useful and includes views of the all glass instrument panel. The only thing lacking are photos of the cargo bay.

Ch 6. MC-130P Combat Shadow
The success of the many operations conducted by SOC depends on the ability to extend the range of the rotor and tilt rotor aircraft's by aerial refueling. Although with a similar role to the the Combat Talon, the Combat Shadow is a much more sophisticated aircraft. The chapter looks at some of the developments, such as the Fulton Surface to Air Recovery System [STAR] for recovering personnel and equipment by means of using a helium filled balloon to elevate the package and the MC-130P capture it whilst flying. Also in the chapter, a pilot describes a typical mission, which is very illuminating.
Plenty of images to support the text as well as four side colour profiles. There is no walk around section in this chapter. Some of the most interesting images are those of the helicopters and particularly CV-22 Osprey being refueled in the air. With the increasing number of 1/144 kits of the C-130 and the UH-60 helicopter it would be an interesting project to model the refueling scene.

Ch 7. EC-130 Commando Solo.
Yet another development of the C-130 is the Commando Solo. The chapter looks at the roles of the:
EC-130E Commando Solo/Rivet Rider that conducts physiological operations and civil affairs broadcasts as well as electronic warfare. There is also a very brief look at EC-130J Commando Solo II, which superseded the EC-130E.
EC-130E ABCCC, the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Centre and a brief look at the use of the EC-130H Rivet Fire/Compass Call aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.
The images are excellent in showing the numerous antennae, pods and some interesting fin shapes of these EC-130 E/H/J used by this unit. There are two coloured side views of the aircraft, particularly interesting is the EC-130E Rivet Rider in South East Asia camouflage and a enlarged fin. The very brief walk around, one page, focuses on the EC-130J. The chapter provides some good reference material if you want to build a very interesting looking Hercules.

Ch 8. MC-130W Combat Spear.
A very brief look at the MC-130W an aircraft developed from stock C-130H Hercules. It is kitted out with a lot of the equipment used for the Combat Talon. It is an interim fix after a number of accidents involving the loss of a number of SOC aircraft and to ease the pressure on Combat Talon's. Superficially they look like the standard C-130H. Not many images, but enough to confirm that you could reference images of the C-130H if you need greater detail, if you wanted to depict one.

Ch9. MH/HH-60G Pave Hawk.
Based on the UH-60 Blackhawk, the chapter discusses it's role and the numerous ways that troops can be deployed by ladder, rope and parachute and retrieved using a Stokes litter or a forest penetrator. There are four coloured side profiles and the walk around focuses on the sort of detail the modeler will be interested in.

Glossary Appendix I.
A very useful inclusion in the book is a glossary of terms. I found photo copying this and using it as a book mark was very helpful as there is a lot of acronyms used in the text.
XFC-130H, Appendix II.
Is the incredible story of Operation Credible Sport I and II. This was an audacious plan to create a super STOL C-130. It would was designed and tested in weeks in the aftermath of the failure of operation 'Iron Claw'. Incredibly the XFC-130H was equipped with groups of rockets to provide lift, brakes and thrust specifically to land the aircraft within the confines of Amjadien Football Stadium, which was situated opposite the American Embassy. There are a few small images showing the rockets firing, but there is a very useful line drawing of the port side showing the installation of the rockets. Again this would be an interesting aircraft to model.
Aircraft Specifications, Appendix III.
Provides specifications of engines, dimensions, performance, armament and crew of the aircraft featured in the book.


This is an excellent reference for the aircraft of SOC not only for the modeler, but also for the student of modern aircraft. It provides a wealth of written detail, so that you can immerse yourself in the subject. The images are very good at providing the sort of detail the modeler are always craving for and it also provides a good source of ideas for those who prefer displaying their models as a diorama or just want a few hatches open.

Publisher: SAM Publications
Authors: Rick Llinares and Andy Evans
Softback book, 128 pages.
Approx 387 photos, the vast majority in colour.
30 colour profiles.

Many thanks to Jean-Luc for letting review this book.
Highs: An excellent reference of some very unusual and largely unseen aircraft.
Lows: None.
Verdict: Go out and buy a copy. Nice one SAM Publications a great way to start the new series of Modelers Data Files Extra.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 978-1-906959-21-0
  Suggested Retail: 19.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Mar 14, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to SAM Publications!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Tim Hatton (litespeed)

Aircraft are my primary interest from WWll to present day.

Copyright 2021 text by Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Thanks for the review. Just glancing at some of the reference pictures though show some errors. The picture of the cockpit of the MC-130H Talon II is not correct it has a glass cockpit. Also the color reference drawings for the shadow is also incorrect. 64-14853 was never a MC-130P combat shadow. Good work put into the book though. Without actually having a copy could not tell you what else is wrong. I have spent 16 years around AFSOC assets, so it is noce to see a book dedicated to us. Herky
MAR 18, 2011 - 12:53 AM
Looks like a good book, but I don't know why they have the ABCCC or Compass Call aircraft in it. Neither of them are AFSOC assets; they belong to ACC.
NOV 04, 2011 - 12:53 PM
The EC-130 Commando Solo is an AFSOC asset, they belong to the 193 SOW . However you are correct the the ABCCC and Compass call are not one of us...... Herky
NOV 17, 2011 - 05:27 PM

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