The versatility of the Marine Corps’ KC-130 aerial refueler/transport aircraft has been appreciated by Marines since its debut in
1962, and has been growing even more with the operational success of the KC-130J Super Hercules version.
The installation of the Hercules Airborne Weapons
Kit, or Harvest HAWK, a weapons and sensor suite,
gives the KC-130J a close-air support role. The Marine
Corps now is preparing to introduce an upgrade to the
Harvest HAWK configuration.
“The mission of the KC-130 is to support the
Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander
by providing air-to-air refueling, aviation-delivered
ground refueling, and assault support airlift, day
or night in all weather conditions during expedi-
tionary, joint, or combined operations,” Maj. James
“Scons” Sconfietti, KC-130/Operational Support
Aircraft requirements officer at Headquarters Marine
Corps (HQMC) Aviation, said in e-mail responses
to Seapower questions. “Additionally, the KC-130J
Harvest HAWK provides the MAGTF command-
er with a platform capable of extended endurance
multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance and on-call
close air support in low-threat scenarios.”
The legacy Harvest HAWK is a
bolt-on/bolt-off kit that includes
AGM-114 Hellfire missile launch-
ers mounted on the left wing in
place of the refueling hose-reel
pod; launchers for AGM-176B
Griffin and GBU- 44 Viper Strike
precision-guided missiles on the
cargo bay; a wing-mounted AAS- 30
Target Sight System electro-optical/
infrared sensor (adapted from the
AH- 1 helicopter gunship); and a
proprietary Lockheed Martin pal-
letized mission-control station.
Three additional crew members
are required for these modified
The KC-130J crew acquires targets with the electro-optical infrared sensor and launches the weapons using
laser designation or Global Positioning System coordinates for targeting.
The Harvest HAWK capability is not the first weapon-ization of a C-130. The U.S. Air Force has used AC-130
gunships since the late 1960s in many combat operations, using their high-volume, rapid-fire side-firing
guns for interdiction and close-air support. The Harvest
HAWK program uses a different concept of operations,
relying on precision-guided missiles rather than guns,
although the Air Force’s newest version, the AC-130W,
now fires Griffin and Viper Strike missiles as well.
The Marine Corps has a requirement for six Harvest
HAWK mission kits — of which five currently are fielded — for use on existing KC-130Js. Of the five KC-130
squadrons within the Marine Corps, only the two active
component squadrons based in the United States —
Marine Aerial Refueler/Transport Squadrons 252 and
352, one on each coast — are equipped with Harvest
HAWK-capable KC-130Js. Each of the two squadrons is
assigned five KC-130Js modified for the kits and each
On-Call Air Support
KC-130J Harvest HAWK provides
aerial over-watch and firepower to Marines
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Armed and Available
The Marine Corps is upgrading the Harvest HAWK sensor and
weapon suite of its KC-130J to improve the aircraft’s close-air
n Operational experience in Afghanistan influenced the upgrades.
n The upgraded kit will bring better situational awareness and airborne endurance for Marine Air-Ground Task Force commanders.
n Initial operational capability is planned for the second quarter
of 2018, with full operational capability scheduled for the fourth
quarter of that year.