With the relocation of the 7406th to Greece, the 7th Special Operations Squadron was moved from Ramstein to Rhein-Main as one of the units shuffled as part of operation Creek Action. The 7406th's Hercules had been used for covert COMINT missions along the Eastern Bloc borders. The 7th SOS's MC-130Es, code-named Combat Talon, were no less mysterious and were also striking to look at with their matt black camouflage scheme and two large hooks on the nose.
It is these hooks that provided the clue to the covert task of these aircraft because they were the most visible element of the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system invented at the beginning of the 1960s and originally intended for fast and safe recovery of downed pilots from the ground or the sea as well as for the recovery of reconnaissance satellite capsules parachuting to earth.
The recovery system was not generally known about until around 1965 when several C-130s went into action in the Vietnam War. Being also equipped with terrain following radar and a vast amount of ECM equipment, these special EC-130Es were ideally suited for dropping infiltrators and agents behind enemy lines and picking them up again.
This, then, was the type of aircraft used in Europe by the 7th SOS as MC-130E Combat Talons. Although even today very little is known about this special unit. According to a Fact Sheet issued by the 1st SOW, the MC-130Es can be used for infiltration operations in which commando and sabotage units are dropped in enemy territory and for difficult air drops. These drops were often from an extremely low altitude - drops from below fifteen meters were not exceptional.
The 7th SOS's MC-130Es were being spotted in every corner of Europe. One of the most bizarre sightings dates from January 1976 when a traveller from West Berlin saw a low-flying C-130 over the Transitstrasse, the transit route, near Magdeburg in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Flying at an estimated fifty meters over the motorway, the Hercules disappeared northwards at great speed. It was certainly an MC-130E from the 7th SOS but its unexplained sighting in the DDR makes one believe it was on a clandestine mission.
The 7th SOS was reassigned to the 39th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Wing, on 1 February 1987 and to the 352d Special Operations Group, on 1 December 1992 relocating in the process to RAF Alconbury, England.
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