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US Air Force Special Operations Command

US Air Force Special Operations Command Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2010 Title US Air Force Special Operations Command
Author Rick Llinares and Andy Evans Publisher SAM Publications
Published 2010 ISBN 978-1-906959-21-0
Format 126 pages, softbound MSRP (BP) £19.99 (Approx 31.30 USD)


SAM Publications has turned out an interesting title with this book covering the US Air Force's Special Operations Command (SOCOM). SOCOM has had a long history of doing covert operations, interdiction, suppression, and otherwise screwing up an adversary's day. Unlike most of the other commands in the USAF, one of SOCOM's principal weapons is the C-130 Hercules. Unlike the standard airlifter however, SOCOM's Hercs have been extensively modified to support specialty operations. When you add other aircraft into the mix such as the HH-60G Pave Hawk and MH-53 Pavel Low for getting special forces safely behind enemy lines, and the CV-22 to take on the same mission at greater speeds, SOCOM can handle a wide range of tactical problems.

This title covers variety of aircraft that have been adopted and adapted to support SOCOM's mission. The coverage includes:

  • Special Operations, History and Overview
  • The AC-130 Gunship
  • The MH-53 Pave Low
  • The MC-130 Combat Talon
  • The CV-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor
  • The MC-130P Combat Shadow
  • The EC-130 Commando Solo
  • The MC-130W Combat Spear
  • The MH/HH-60G Pave Hawk

Each section walks through the development and evolution of each type. In the case of the gunship, the story picks up with the AC-130A over Southeast Asia and walks through the different variants and configurations through the current AC-130U (U-Boat). Likewise on the Pavel Low and Combat Talon types.

The specialists are also nicely covered, such as the Combat Shadow covert tanker designed to sneak into enemy airspace to refuel the thirsty SOCOM helicopters as well as the Combat Spear designed as a supplemental airframe to augment the Combat Talon fleet. While the title does talk about the EC-130 Commando Solo (formerly Coronet Solo and Volant Solo), it does provide a description of the EC-130E ABCCC and EC-130H Compass Call which all share similar designations (though nobody can mistake those different tails!).

This title is well-illustrated with full-color coverage and only a couple of black & white photos from the early history section. The photos in each section provide a great cross-section of color schemes worn by each type as well as their markings and nose art (where applicable). I especially like the appendix coverage of the XFC-130H Credible Sport airframes that were quickly developed to land in the soccer field across from the US embassy in Tehran, load up the rescued US personnel taken hostage by the Iranians, then blast off using rocket power to get clear of the area. As you know, this concept didn't exactly work out but the photos of the C-130 using serious rocket power are quite impressive!

This title will be a nice addition to the modeler and historian alike as this coverage provides a nice top-level overview of the subject.

My sincere thanks to SAM Publications for this review sample!