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34th WPS launches new HC-130J weapons instructor course

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Acknowledging a critical shortage of weapons officers with advanced training in the Air Force's newest fixed-wing rescue aircraft, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III approved the U.S. Air Force Weapons School's first HC-130J Combat King II weapons instructor course in August.

This new WIC will build HC-130J tactical and integration experts essential to the personnel recovery community to support combatant commanders.

The WIC will fall under the 34th Weapons Squadron, which already has a well-established HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue course. With the addition of the HC-130J WIC, the 34th WPS will become the USAFWS's only current squadron to teach WICs in both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

The USAFWS comprises 18 weapons squadrons, each dedicated to teaching graduate-level WICs in various specialties. Some squadrons focus on one WIC, while others already teach multiple WICs.

The HC-130J recently replaced the HC-130P/N King as the designated fixed-wing platform for U.S. Air Force personnel recovery operations. Its capabilities include personnel recovery during air and space operations, precision engagement, global attacks, and helicopter refueling. The U.S. Air Force declared initial operational capability for the HC-130J in 2013.

The number of weapons officers trained in the HC-130J is extremely low and has not kept pace with the evolution of the aircraft. The 34th WPS will begin to build an expert corps of initial cadre by the end of 2015 to create a syllabus by June 2016 and validate the course by the end of 2016. Students will begin attending the new WIC in early 2017.

As the WIC stands up, the 34th WPS will collaborate with several organizations. Instructors initially will come from experts in the HC-130J community along with the rescue expert cadre already teaching at the 34th WPS. 

The 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, will provide the necessary HC-130Js -- based at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona -- and maintenance personnel to support the syllabus sorties. The 23rd WG will also make a simulator available at Davis-Monthan AFB.

Although much of the support will come from Davis-Monthan AFB, the HC-130J WIC is projected to remain with the 34th WPS at Nellis. This will allow students to not only receive targeted training on personnel recovery in the HC-130J but also to execute all phases of personnel recovery while fully integrating with all Air Force assets.  

"It is crucial that the HC-130J students be here with the 34th WPS at Nellis AFB," said Maj. Evan Scaggs, 34th WPS director of operations. "Their being collocated with our HH-60G students will maximize the interaction between personnel recovery experts and allow the students to lead and integrate on diverse missions."

The Combat Air Forces will soon benefit from the tactical expertise of HC-130J weapons officers who are well versed in integrating with rescue platforms and a variety of other systems. The HC-130J WIC will be open to active duty and Air Reserve Component instructor pilots and instructor combat systems officers.

"We are excited about standing up the HC-130J WIC here at Nellis AFB. It will enable our rescue brothers and sisters in the Combat King II community to build, teach, and lead their personnel and personnel
outside of rescue," said Scaggs.