‘Sombre occasion’ sees RAF Mildenhall’s last MC-130H Talon II plane leave for good as Special Operations move to tiltrotor CV-22 Ospreys

RAF Mildenhall

RAF Mildenhall

A “sombre occasion” for airmen at RAF Mildenhall saw the departure of the last of its 7th Special Operations Squadron planes, after more than 15 years of service.

The news came just as the US Air Force announced plans to close the base, which will see the 7th SOS move to Germany in five to seven years’ time.

The last MC-130H Combat Talon II departed on January 8, making way for the unique tiltrotor CV-22 Ospreys, which combine the capabilities of a helicopter and an aircraft.

The Talon II, tail number 0195, was the last of its kind in Europe and Colonel Matthew Powell, vice-commander of Special Operations in Europe, was sad to see it go.

He said: “This is a departure flight. It’s a sombre occasion. (It) is a real quiet and respectful departure because we understand the mission will never be the same.

“It’s absolutely fundamental to emphasise that we have a tradition of zero mission failure and we rise to the challenge.

“Our heritage recognizes that and as the 7th (SOS) transitions to the CV-22, it’s clear that’s our future too.”

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The first major deployment for the 7th SOS was in 1995 was to the Middle East, for Exercise Noble Rose.

Two of the planes supported US Army Special Forces and US Navy SEAL forces from March 15 to April 4 that year.

The planes also came to the fore during the Balkans conflict, where the aircraft were well suited to the extreme weather. Since then the unit has fought in overseas conflicts on a regular bases, including in Iraq.

“There’s no plane that can do what a Talon II can do,” Col Powell said.

“But in a few years I think the mission will evolve into other platforms. Right now, that’s the CV-22.”

The departure does not mark the end for the planes. Col Powell explained: “The nice thing about this departure flight is these planes are not going to the boneyard. They’re going back to Hurlburt Field [in Florida]where they’ll continue to fly and make an impact for special operations.”