Image: RacecarRoadcar

The year is 1970. Two specially modified Lockheed MC-130 U.S. Air Force planes have just taken off from a Thai airbase en route to a Vietnamese prison camp. These craft are part of Operation Ivory Coast – an audacious attempt to rescue 61 American prisoners of war from the communists. And to aid the raid, the planes are bristling with top-secret equipment… but there’s a reason why the government has kept them under wraps.

Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair

In fact, the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) had several of the MC-130Es in its inventory. To create the MC-130E, you see, Lockheed had made modifications to the basic C-130 Hercules – a four-engined turboprop machine originally designed to carry cargo and troops. New military and civilian versions of this plane have been created ever since, too – with some versions of the C-130 still in service today.

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