Tag Archives: Air Mobility Command

The 305th Air Mobility Wing: USAF Enabler of Global Reach

We have taken part in an aerial refueling mission aboard a KC-10 Extender with the 305th AMW. Here is how it went.

It’s early and the darkness feels more like night than day. Flight crew gathers at the 305th Air Mobility Wings (AMW) base operations, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), NJ. Paperwork in order and mission plan briefed, we leave base ops for the aircraft. The sun cracks the horizon as we arrive at the KC-10 Extender for pre-flight. The aircraft crew chief and maintenance team are well into preparing the mission aircraft. It is clear they were at work long before our arrival. Despite the hour, the ramp is alive and aircraft are already in the circuit. JBMDL never really sleeps. Time passes quickly, and with pre-flight complete the two KC-10s on this mission taxi together to launch.

With multiple missions in store the early morning will stretch into afternoon, afternoon into night and come full circle to dawn. The interior of the 305th AMW KC-10 becomes my world. Cockpit, seating area, cargo hold and refueling station. “Can Do” is more than a motto for the 305th AMW.

Two days and three missions later “Can Do” becomes “Job Done.” Flights of 6 to near 10 hours will cover distant States, Florida, Louisiana and Missouri. The Air-to-Air Refueling (AAR) missions will support a diversity of platforms; fighters, attack, transports, bombers and include both U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Navy (USN) assets.

The 305th AMW deploys airlift and refueling capability from America’s Eastern gateway in support of USAF and Department of Defense global objectives. Utilizing the KC-10 Extender they are the enabler of the Global Reach of the USAF.

The KC-10 Extender offers long range, boom, hose/drogue capability and extensive fuel capacity (356,000 lbs – almost twice that of the KC-135 Stratotanker). Given these capabilities, the KC-10 is typically utilized when moving aviation assets across continent or from one continent to the other. In many cases, the KC-10 “tows” a group of aircraft while packing the required flight personnel and ground equipment across the ocean/continent on deployments.

Tankers don’t have the sizzle of fighters or bombers. They are one of the more mundane aircraft types in the inventory. However, when it comes to global reach or deploying an effective Strike or Offensive Counter Air/Defensive Counter Air (OCA/DCA) force – tankers are critical. Indispensable.

Carefully planned and choreographed missions require frequent AAR as part of the routine. Yet there are those situations where Close Air Support (CAS) or OCA/DCA missions conspire to create “danger low fuel conditions.” In moments like those there is no sweeter sight to a pilot than pulling up under the tanker and looking through the viewing window into the face of the air refueler. No words can describe that feeling – on either side of the boom.

The entire AAR paradigm is an interesting one. Mobile fuel, deployed on location to best facilitate the mission of the receiver. This makes the Tanker community the ultimate service organization. Bottom line – Tankers will go to any end to ensure their “customer” can complete their mission. Counterpart to the 305th AMW where 32 of 59 USAF KC-10s are based, is the 60th AMW of Travis AFB on the West Coast. No less vital in their role are the near 400 KC-135s in the USAF inventory.

Life aboard and around a KC-10 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.

Beyond AAR, the 305th’s mission includes delivery of cargo and personnel to combatant commanders abroad, VIP transport, cargo transport, dignified transfer. However, make no mistake – AAR is the primary role and the 305th AMW strives for excellence in enabling the rapid, global mobility of the USAF.

Excellence is people driven, and starts with teamwork. Flight crews typically gather for briefing 90 minutes prior to the flight, and move quickly to the KC-10 Extender for pre-flight. The aircraft Crew Chief and maintenance team is already on site ensuring all systems are go – and stay that way until the door is closed and the stairs are pulled. They are the last to leave the aircraft before launch and the first to greet the aircraft on arrival. The 305th Maintenance Group works 24/7 to ensure aircraft are mission ready.

While unique to me, the “mission saturation” I experience is the norm for the 305th AMW and reveals their pulse. The missions include crew from a variety of units including the 2nd Aerial Refueling Squadron (ARS), 32nd ARS and 305 Operations Support Squadron (OSS).

After take-off we unite with the lead KC-10 and fly in a loose trailing formation. Flying in any kind of formation adds complexity and interest. First stop, on location off the coast of Virginia to refuel F-22 Raptors from the 1st FW (Joint-Base Langley-Eustis) and F/A-18 Super Hornets (NAS Oceana). The aircraft have been mixing it up in a Red Air/Blue Air exercise. With fuel delivered we head south within reach of Miami.

F-22 from the 1 FW JBLE sliding up for fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 (JBMDL) during a Red Air / Blue Air exercise off the coast of VA.

F-22 from the 1 FW / 27th FS JBLE sliding up for fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 (JBMDL) during a Red Air / Blue Air exercise off the coast of VA.

C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th AW of Charleston, SC join up for some boom time.

C-17 from the 437th AW Joint Base Charleston drops away from 305th AMW (JBMDL) KC-10 Extender.

On the return north the two KC-10s work “Extender to Extender” skills. The constant skills training and requirements ensure crews remain proficient in all aspects of their role.

Clean and graceful in the skies, KC-10 Extender from the 305th AMW drops away after taking fuel from another Extender. The 305th AMW of JBMDL regularly trains on both sides of the boom.

Pulling up to the pump… From one KC-10 Extender to another, the 305th AMW of JBMDL regularly training on both sides of the boom.

Day two we depart JBMDL in another KC-10 two ship. One KC-10 meets with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the 122nd FW “Blacksnakes” of the Indiana ANG. Our aircraft goes south to meet with a “BUFF” or more formally, B-52H Stratofortress from the 96th BS out of Barksdale AFB.

B-52H “Old Soldier II” of the 96th BS (2nd BW Barksdale AFB) during refueling operation from 305th AMW KC-10 Extender – JBMDL.

Then we are back to JBMDL for a brief break on the ground, and into another KC-10 for a night mission refueling 3 B-2 Spirits somewhere over Missouri. Two of the three bombers in the USAF Global Strike Command in one day. Two of the three frontline stealth aircraft in the USAF inventory in two days. This is life in the 305th.

A-10Cs “Blacksnakes” the 122 FW, Indiana Air National Guard taking fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 Extender over the midwest.

In the now familiar confines of the KC-10 it starts to sink in. The 305th AMW, the USAF is TEAM. Roles may be “flashy” – or not. Doesn’t matter. Everybody has a purpose and contributes to achieve the greater mission. It may be training, it could be combat. Doesn’t matter, it is all very real. People and Mission.

Units like the 305th AMW go about this day in and day out. It never stops. Whether fueling aircraft or delivering cargo the satisfaction comes from enabling the mission. Missions span the sphere of humanitarian, training, combat operations, operational support, VIP transit and beyond.
The boom operators like SMSGT C. Wise, MSgt J. Stockwell, or TSgt A. Sochia reveal the impact on their lives. Mesmerizing AAR operations, day or night, watching fighters or aircraft as surreal as B-2s slide up for fuel – that’s not it. One of the operators recalls an AAR mission over the Middle East. They remained on station to fuel an aircraft that was involved in CAS, supporting troops involved in a firefight. Sometime later the boom operator learned that a neighbor from their hometown had been on the ground in that firefight. That’s it. Teamwork that transcends the service branch. Making a tangible impact when the chips are down. Another operator reflected on the times their KC-10 was utilized for a dignified transfer – bringing fallen service members home. No words can describe the impact, or meaningfulness of such missions.

Yes, the platforms, the experiences, the sights are incredible. However, clichés aside, it IS about the people. Enabling, respecting, serving. This is the heart of the Air Force, Air Mobility Command, and the 305th AMW. Their pulse is strong.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to the 305th AMW, the 2nd ARS, 32nd ARS, 305th OSS, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs Team Shaun Eagan, SrA Lauren Russell, A1C Zachary Martyn, the exceptional team of in-flight refuelers and flight crews. All professionals through and through in the finest sense.

Salva

This Photo Shows A U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy Landing in St. Maarten For The Very First Time To Support Hurricane Irma Relief Operations

A giant C-5 Galaxy landed at Princess Juliana International Airport in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Maho Beach, located on the final approach to the Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway, is one of the world’s most famous spots for aviation enthusiasts and photographers who can take breathtaking shots of aircraft, including wide-bodies, about to land in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

If you look for images of aircraft landing at St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) online, you’ll literally find thousand close-up photographs showing planes flying extremely low over bystanders at Maho Beach.

Unfortunately, St. Maarten and its remarkable beaches have been almost destroyed by Hurricane Irma last month.  Although the airport was “hit hard, with what appeared to be sand washed up to parts of the main terminal and the building’s roof extensively damaged,” and remain closed to commercial operations, the runway at SXM was made available to aircraft supporting the relief operations on Sept. 16.

Whilst the very first aircraft to land in St. Maarten after Irma was a KLM Boeing 747-400, one of the rarest jets to operate from the Caribbean airport was probably the U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy 86-0020 that landed at SXM on Sept. 18. Photographer Marseno Bremer was there and took the stunning shot of the aircraft over Maho Beach that you can find in this post.

Noteworthy, the C-5M that landed at Princess Juliana Airport was the same involved in a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base in Spain in May 2017.

[Updated] U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing At Rota Air Base in Spain

As a consequence of a second malfunction of a C-5’s nose landing gear (occurred on Jul. 15), the U.S. Air Force grounded 18 Galaxy cargo planes based at Dover Air Force Base (out of 56 flown by the Air Mobility Command) pending further investigation, on Jul. 18. The grounding was lifted for 5 C-5s at the beginning of August.

Image credit: Marseno Bremer

C-17 Gear up landing in Bagram: the aircraft accident investigation board report

On Jan. 30, 2009, a C-17A tail number 60002 landed at Bagram air base in Afghanistan with the landing gear retracted. A few days after the mishap I published some interesting pictures showing the damaged aircraft on the runway at Bagram and that post is not only one of the most read of this website, but it is also one of the most commented by visitors (especially from the US). Even if the aircraft accident investigation board issued its final report in May 2009 (as I wrote in a previous post) there is still people providing different versions and explainations of the accident without any knowledge of the evidences collected by the investigation board. For this reason I think that it could be interesting for someone to read at least the executive summary of the above mentioned report (that is available in full version here) by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Aircraft and helicopters overflying Rome at the end of the G8 summit

With so many world leaders attending the G8 (G14) event in L’Aquila, Rome airports have been managing a large amount of visiting aircraft. For instance, the Air Force One, arrived in Pratica di Mare with an accompanying C-17,  Gordon Brown arrived in Ciampino with a British Airways A-319, while the Indian delegation landed in Fiumicino, with an Air India B747-400 (as far as I know the new French Air Force Falcon 7X which was named “Carla One” after Carla Bruni, was not used to carry Sarkozy and his wife: http://www.repubblica.it/2006/05/gallerie/esteri/aereo-sarkozy/1.html that were reported flying a Falcon 900). Then, many of the leaders reached L’Aquila Preturo Airport on board executive and military airplanes and helicopters (Obama was carried by a VH60N whose flight was monitored by a Predator of the Italian Air Force, as this video shows), some of which were deployed at Pratica di Mare or even Urbe airport (see here: http://cencio4.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/exclusive-pictures-three-us-army-ch-47ds-arrive-in-rome-urbe-airport/).

A few aircraft were spotted weeks before the G8, most probably during site surveys made to assess logistic details prior to the arrival of the delegations. For example, it was perhaps linked to the arrival of the POTUS, the C-17 I saw at Ciampino on Jun. 5, 2009:

So there has been much helicopter activity above downtown Rome these days and, especially on Jul. 10, at the end of the G8, when Obama moved for Urbe to Pratica di Mare, to board again on the Air Force One and depart to Ghana, not only the “Marine 1” and “Nighthawk 1” formations were flying, but also many Italian Police aircraft that I spotted from my house:

C-17 gear up landing: investigation results

After publishing the pictures of the famous C-17 gear up landing in Bagram there was much discussion among the visitors of this site about the root cause of the accident, the responsibilities etc. (you can see the pictures and read the comments that follow the article here: C-17 gear up landing in Bagram: images) the Air Mobility Command has finally released the result of its investigation according to which the accident was primarily caused by the failure of the pilots to extract the landing gear.

Bagram C-17 Accident Investigation Board complete

Headquarters AMC Public Affairs

5/7/2009 – SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Air Mobility Command today released
the results of its investigation into the Jan. 30, 2009, mishap involving a
C-17 Globemaster III that landed with retracted gear at Bagram Air Base,
Afghanistan.

The Accident Investigation Board, convened by AMC, concluded the primary
cause of the mishap was the failure of the pilots to lower the landing gear
and confirm proper aircraft landing configuration in accordance with the
Before Landing checklist.

The AIB president also found that aircrew distractions, task saturation,
reduced cockpit visual cues, failure of the flight crew to cross- monitor
each other’s performance, the tower’s failure to transmit a required
reminder, and the crew’s inadvertent disabling of Ground Proximity Warning
System alerts contributed to the mishap.

The mishap occurred as the C-17 was landing at Bagram AB during a combat
airlift mission in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and
Joint Task Force Horn of Africa operations.

The aircraft landed on the runway centerline with the landing gear retracted
and slid approximately 4,500 feet before coming to rest on the runway.
Crash, fire and rescue response was immediate, and there were no fatalities,
injuries or damage to other property. However, damage to the aircraft’s main
landing gear and fuselage underbelly was significant.