The U.S. Air Force 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II tail number 13-5785 was dedicated as the newest 23rd Wing Flagship March 30, 2022. Dubbed “The Whale Shark,” this J-model 130, is the first to feature the Flying Tiger Teeth and replaces the previous Flagship aircraft, an HH60G Pavehawk, which currently sits in retirement at the George W. Bush Airpark. U.S. Air Force Col. Russell Cook, 23rd Wing commander chose the HC-130J Combat King II as the 23rd Wings Flagship due to its similarities to the HC-130P King which refueled his missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.
A Flagship is a dedicated aircraft with either the squadron, group, or wing commander’s name, and the dedicated crew chief’s name painted on the aircraft. Flagships primarily serve as the pride of a base or units’ fleet of aircraft, and are usually selected to represent a certain mission or idea. The choice of aircraft also stands out as a historic first for the 23rd Wing. Along with the teeth and commander’s name, the tail flash and tail number are shadowed with white accents to help the aircraft stand out. As the dedicated Flagship, HC-130J Combat King II tail 13-5785 will continue to fly and spread the 23rd Wing’s mission in an operational capacity.
“We name the jets, we call them him or her, paint mustaches and teeth on them as an extension of ourselves. The shark teeth of Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers have once again returned to the HC-130, humanizing a machine that’s as much a warfighter as any of us,” Col. Russell Cook said during a speech at the dedication ceremony.
“Every Wing has a Flagship, and Col. Cook chose the HC-130J for what it represents. This plane represents the rescue commitment to travel the world and save lives to embody the motto, ‘That others may live’.,” said 2nd Lt. Dusty Strickland, 71st RQS sortie support flight commander.
The HC-130J Combat King II is an extended-range version of the C-130J Hercules transport. Its mission is to rapidly deploy to execute combatant commander directed recovery operations to austere airfields and denied territory for expeditionary, all weather personnel recovery operations to include airdrop, airland, helicopter air-to-air refueling, and forward area ground refueling missions. Modifications to the HC-130J have improved navigation, threat detection and countermeasures systems. It also has forward-looking infrared, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, satellite and data-burst communications, and the ability to receive fuel inflight via a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI).