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Airborne satellite retriever

Robert Podboy

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Evidently a C-130B was modified to JC-130 configuration for use as an ‘airborne satellite retriever’. How was it supposed to work? Did it ever retrieve a falling satellite?

Some pictures in the gallery showing the rig out ready to capture. Good mission and assignment.

We flew a lot of training missions using concrete filled bomb casings as the "satellite" that we dropped and then zoomed down making passes at them before catching them. Not sure how much op sec is still involved with this but.....


The 6594th Test Group was based at Hickam AFB, Hawaii up until the mid-1980's. They flew a combination of JC-130B's & H's & some helicopters. Their motto was "Catch a Falling Star."

Go to the gallery and look up 3504c.

Don R.

If I remember correctly there were 3 JHC-130Hs as catch birds and 9 JC-130Bs. We had 3 HC-130Ps as chopper refuelers. The HH-53s were used if the satellite ended up in the water.

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IIRC All-American Engineering out of Wilmington, DE was the group that came up with the recovery system. I think there were two systems, one for the Herk and one for the CH-3. I remember reading an article on it about 20 years ago in Air Force Magazine. My Guard unit (DE ANG) was somehow involved in it, but I don't remember how. It may have been just to transport the system to Edwards, I can't be sure. The people to ask have long retired.

I do recall seeing the CH-3 system around the time of the article. I think AAE had donated it to the Air Force Museum and was looking for a free ride to get it there. I don't know whatever happened to it though.

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