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Commando Solo Fact Sheet

Commando Solo, the United States Air Force's only airborne radio and television broadcast mission, is assigned to the 193d Special Operations Wing, the only ANG unit assigned to the elite Air Force Special Operations Command. The 193d performs this unique psychological operations mission out of its compact, 38-acre base at Harrisburg International Airport, in Middletown, Pa.

The primary mission of the 193d is to provide an airborne broadcast platform for virtually any contingency, including state or national disasters or other emergencies, on a moment's notice, anywhere in the world. The 193d performs this unique mission with six specially configured EC130E/RR aircraft. A secondary mission assigned to the 193d is providing airlift for the Air Force Intelligence Command, Senior Scout mission. This mission is performed with two specially modified EC130E aircraft. Commando Buzz

Being a one-of-a-kind unit means being at the "tip of the spear." For instance, the 193d has seen combat action four times: Southeast Asia in 1970, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989 and Southwest Asia (Desert Shield and Desert Storm) in 1990/91. Additionally, in 1994 the unit was one of the lead units to deploy and conduct operations over Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy, and unit members and equipment have deployed to Europe in support of operations there.

The 193d maintains its reputation as being the most deployed Air National Guard unit in the country, participating in 12-15 major exercises or real world deployments each year. The unit has been awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award eight times, was selected as the best flying unit within the Air Guard and recently won recognition as having the best dining hall and Services Flight in the country. The unit has accumulated over 152,000 accident free flying hours during an unprecedented 40 year period of time.

With an authorized personnel strength of approximately 1,100, of whom 290 are full-time employees, the 193d has a combined annual payroll of more than $31.7 million. The total annual operating budget exceeds $35 million. That budget supports assets (excluding aircraft and buildings) of more than $96.4 million. Capital assets (buildings) comprise more than $23 million and the current replacement value for the eight assigned aircraft is more than $325 million. The unit is a modern facility with all buildings constructed since 1990. The two newest work areas, a refueling vehicle maintenance shop and 12,000 sq ft. deployment storage warehouse, are nearing completion.

On the horizon the unit is in the process of updating its aircraft fleet with the latest version of the venerable C-130.

Service: Air Force/Air National Guard (ANG)
Primary Function: Psychological Operations (PSYOP) broadcasts
Builder: Lockheed
Date of Manufacture: 1963
Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 Turboprop Engines
Thrust: 4.910 shaft horsepower per engine
Length: 100 ft 6 in (30.9 meters)
Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 meters)
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 meters)
Speed: 299 mph
Ceiling: 20,000 ft
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 lbs (70,455 kg)
Range: 2,100 miles (3,380 km)
Crew: Four officers (pilot, copilot, navigator, mission control chief/EWO); seven enlisted (flight engineer, loadmaster, five mission crew)
IOC: 1992
Unit Flyaway Cost: More than $70 million
Air Force Mission: Commando Solo conducts psychological operations and civil affairs broadcast missions in the standard AM, FM, HF, TV, and military communications bands. Missions are flown at maximum altitudes possible to ensure optimum propagation patterns. The EC-130 flies during either day or night scenarios with equal success, and is air refuelable. A typical mission consists of a single-ship orbit which is offset from the desired target audience. The targets may be either military or civilian personnel.

Secondary missions include command and control communications countermeasures (C3CM) and limited intelligence gathering.

Air Force Features: Highly specialized modifications have been made to the latest version of the EC-130 (Commando Solo). Included in these modifications are enhanced navigation systems, self-protection equipment, and the capability of broadcasting color television on a multitude of worldwide standards throughout the TV VHF/UHF ranges.

Air Force (ANG) Inventory: 6 - All flown by 193rd Special Operations Wing.

Air Force Background: Air National Guard EC-130 aircraft flown by the 193rd Special Operations Group were deployed to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Desert Storm. Their missions included broadcasts of "Voice of the Gulf", and other programs intended to convince Iraqi soldiers to surrender. Their "preparation of the battlefield" helped to minimize both enemy and friendly casualties by contributing to the massive Iraqi defections and surrenders.

The EC-130 was originally modified using the mission electronic equipment from the EC-121 aircraft, known at the time as Coronet Solo. Soon after the 193rd SOG received its EC-130's, the unit participated in the rescue of U.S. citizens in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983, acting as an airborne radio station informing those people on Grenada of the U.S. military action.

Volant Solo, as the mission was now known, was instrumental in the success of coordinated psychological operations (PSYOP) in Operation Just Cause in 1989, again broadcasting throughout the initial phases of the operation to help end the Noriega regime.

Most recently, in 1994, Commando Solo was utilized to broadcast radio and television messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. The EC-130's of the 193rd deployed very early in the operation, highlighting the importance of PSYOP in avoiding military and civilian casualties. President Aristide himself was featured in the broadcasts, which contributed significantly to the orderly transition from military rule to democracy.

In 1990 the 193rd joined the newly formed Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and has been designated Commando Solo, with no change in mission. This one-of-a-kind aircraft is consistently improving its capabilities. The next few years should see continued enhancements to the EC-130 and its worldwide missions.

(Current as of Aug 1997)