Special Operations: Fly Hard, Pay Later


August 22, 2009: The U.S. Air Force is adding $4 billion worth of new aircraft, to its units assigned to SOCOM, over the next five years. The 1st Special Operations Wing (SOW, with 13,000 personnel and about 120 aircraft) will be getting 37 new C-130J transports, to replace the Vietnam era C-130s that have been refurbished and upgraded over the last four decades. But these older aircraft are worn out, especially with the heavy use of them in the last eight years, making replacement an urgent task. This will include converting 17 of the aircraft to AC-130 gunships, to replace the 25 currently available, and rapidly being worn out. The air force is also getting fifty CV-22 tilt-rotor transports, partly to replace the MH-53 helicopters that were retired last year. 

The 1st SOW flew 3,200 combat sorties last year, each of these averaging about four hours over hostile territory. There were also 4,200 training sorties, which mainly served to provide 3,200 new air crew for 1st SOW aircraft.


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