U.S and Polish C-130s Take Part In Joint Drills At Powdiz, One Of The Most Important Bases On NATO’s Eastern Flank

The Hercules flight line at Powidz. (All images: Jacek Siminski).

We attended the Media Day of Aviation Detachment 19-1. Here’s what we have seen.

Over the course of last month Powidz airbase has hosted a Polish-US aviation/ and cargo/personnel drop training event, involving C-130 aircraft. About 100 US airmen from the 181th Airlift Squadron 136th Airlift Wing stationed in Fort Worth in Texas took part in the latest Aviation Detachment rotation held at the Polish base of Powdiz.

During the last 4 weeks US crews have been involved in exchange of experience with their Polish colleagues, training together with the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base’s personnel. The joint operations also involved the Polish Air Force’s 2nd Tactical Aviation Wing, 12th Mechanized Division and 6th Airborne Brigade of the Polish Army, as well as some of the elements of the special operations component.

One of the C-130s of the 181th Airlift Squadron taxies for take off.

The Av-Det rotation involved 5 Hercules airframes: three US C-130H2 and two Polish C-130E aircraft. The training, that came to an end on Mar. 29, 2019, has involved tactical flying, personnel and cargo drops, austere field training and NVG [Night Vision Goggles] flights. The main areas where the operations have taken place include the Polish ranges in Drawsko and Torun.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to be here and work together with the Polish Air Force. Our goal is to share experiences regarding tactics and techniques, combat tested by our wing, and also to strengthen our NATO alliance. Our partnership will allow us to build our deterrence efforts and adapt our readiness and responsiveness in new locations.”

said Lt. Col. Jorge Caro, 136th AW senior intelligence officer, as quoted within the DVIDS Hub

The main goal of the Aviation Detachment initiative is to jointly enhance the procedures and crew skills. The event is finalized with a precision landing and cargo drop competition. This time, four C-130 crews took part in the competition – 2 US and 2 Polish Air Force aircraft were involved. The Americans took the top two places with the Poles coming in third and fourth.

The Av-Det has now been held regularly in Powidz over the last couple of years. It is a part of the USAFE component deployed to Poland (originally – Łask) formed by a group of 10 soldiers with 200 more being present in Poland on a rotational basis. AvDet 19-1 is the first rotation this year and thirteenth rotation overall.

One of the U.S. C-130Hs taxing during the Media Day of Aviation Detachment 19-1.

Interestingly, the Powidz Air Base is currently also hosting a couple of US F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath’s 48. Fighter Wing. They have arrived in Powidz on Mar. 22 and are to be involved in the Rapid Panther exercise. The journalists were not allowed to come close to the Eagles during the media day unfortunately.

A C-130H involved in an airdrop over the base.
A Polish C-130E involved in a tactical event during Aviation Detachment 19-1.

Powidz is also going to be a location where NATO would establish its armament storage facility, with investment budget of USD 260 million. The whole operation is to take 2 years – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced in his interview for Wall Street Journal. Five similar facilities are to be established all around Europe. Apart from the Polish facility, its counterparts wold be located in Germany (two facilities as such), Belgium and the Netherlands. All to facilitate the potential US deployment on the Eastern Flank.

U.S. Army AH-64 helicopters were also operating out of Powidz.
AFSOC CV-22 on the ground at Powidz.

Hercules aside, the U.S. presence at Powidz included UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, AH-64 Gunships, CV-22 Osprey and MC-130J Combat Talons: a sign that the base is gradually becoming a forward-US hub on the Eastern Flank.

Thanks go to AviationPictures.pl crew for the logistics support

Group photo with a Polish C-130E and a U.S. C-130H.

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.