Tag Archives: c-130

Take A Look At These Shots Of The Airdrops Performed During Operation “Market Garden” Celebrations in the Netherlands

Each year, waves of paratroopers commemorate Operation Market Garden fought in the Netherlands in September 1944.

Operation “Market Garden” is the name of an unsuccessful Allied military operation launched during World War II and fought between Sept. 17-25, 1944, in the Netherlands. The objective of the operation was planned to be achieved through two subsidiary operations: the first one was an airborne assault to seize a series of nine key bridges that could have provided an Allied invasion route into Germany (“Market”); the second one was a ground attack (“Garden”).

Whilst the airborne and land forces managed in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, they were defeated during the Battle of Arnhem in their attempt to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine.

An Air Force Reserve C-130 taking off from Eindhoven. (All images: Marco Ferregeau).

Operation “Market Garden” saw the largest airborne operation up to that point of WWII but its failure led to 16,000 allied casualties and 13,000 German ones.

Each year, the people of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Ede and Driel commemorate mid September the commitment and dedication of the allied soldiers. During the ceremonies Dutch people respectfully honour the veterans, their fallen comrades and their relatives, who bravely fought during the Nattle of Arnhem.

Thousands of visitors attended the annual commemorations of the “Market Garden” airborne landings on the Ginkelse Heide in Ede, in the Dutch province of Gelderland. Around 15 veterans well over the age of 90 were the guests of honour at the 74rd annual commemorations, including paratroopers and pilots from Holland, Great Britain, Belgium, US and Poland.

C-130 Elephant Walk at Eindhoven.

The Airborne program started at 09.30 hrs and ends at 16.30 hrs. at Ginkel Heath. After the first Mass Drop the official commemoration started.

British parachutists, soldiers of the 11th Air Manouvre Brigade from The Netherlands, para’s from America and several NATO countries and many parachutists of the Parachute Group Holland jumped from C-130 Hercules aircraft and one Dakota.

Para’s boarding.

Hercules Loadmaster. Take a look at the memorial jump patch.

Photographer Marco Ferrageau attended the ceremonies and had the opportunity to take the shots that you can find in this article.

Parachute jump.

RNlAF C-130 taking part to the memorial jump.

Close Air Support Debate: We Go Inside an AC-130 to See if the Gunship is Still Relevant

The AC-130 Spectre Gunship Still Plays a Critical Role in America’s Close Air Support Capability.

It is large, slow and vulnerable to air defense systems including increasingly effective man-portable SAMs. It can also deliver withering fire support with an impressive degree of accuracy and an ever-expanding variety of munitions if the battlespace is permissive enough. It’s the AC-130 Spectre gunship.

But is the large, slow gunship still relevant?

With the role of the A-10 in question, the emergence of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the recent Light Attack Experiment and even armed, remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) the question becomes: where does the AC-130 Spectre gunship fit into the mix of assets in the Air Force order of battle?

The term “gunship” entered the air combat vocabulary mostly during the Vietnam war with Project Tailchaser, the experimental test of a minigun-equipped twin-engine Convair C-131B turboprop cargo plane carrying a single GAU-2/A minigun. The GAU-2A minigun is a belt-fed, multi-barrel Gatling gun that can sustain a very high rate of fire without overheating its multiple gun barrels.

Interestingly, the development of the gunship concept in the early 1960s could be considered roughly analogous to today’s modern Light Attack Experiment. Gunship development in the early days of the Vietnam conflict used entirely off-the-shelf equipment and aircraft. Gunships were developed to fill a need resulting from asymmetrical guerilla warfare fought by a largely insurgent adversary. Both of these attributes are present in the Light Attack Experiment.

The Project Tailchaser experiment led to the famous AC-47 gunships used in Vietnam. These are largely regarded as the first modern “gunships”.

Using the call sign “Puff” for Puff the Magic Dragon, the AC-47 was used in combat for the first time on Dec. 15, 1964. Because of its success, the AC-47 was soon joined over Vietnam by the AC-119G Shadow and AC-119K Stinger gunships. The AC-119K Stinger has the distinction of being the only combined turboprop and jet powered gunship with the addition of a pair of underwing-mounted General Electric J-85 jet engines. Following the success of these gunship platforms the AC-130A Project Gunship II was developed in 1967 at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio and deployed to Vietnam soon after.

The unusual AC-119K Stinger gunship used a combination of propellers and jet engines. (Photo: USAF via Wikipedia)

Prior to the Vietnam conflict there had been several experiments with aircraft modified to carry multiple guns for both air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. These included versions of the B-25 Mitchell with up to eight cannons mounted in a solid nose for ground attack and an experimental B-17 Flying Fortress converted to an air-to-air gunship called the YB-40. The YB-40 gunship actually flew 48 operational missions over Germany in WWII. It was armed with 18 Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns for protection of bomber formations from fighter attack. The YB-40 could accompany the bomber formation during the entire mission when fuel restrictions meant single engine fighter planes such as the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt could not escort the bombers for the entire mission.

An indication that gunships have maintained their relevance even in the modern tactical airspace alongside RPAs, A-10 Thunderbolt II jets and the F-35 joint strike fighter is the use of the gunship in private militaries. Author Robert Pelton chronicled an apparently successful experiment by private military contracting pioneer Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, Inc. (renamed “Xe” in 2009 and now known as “Academi”). According to Young’s account, Prince used the CASA 212 twin-engine turboprop with two A12 .50 caliber machine guns capable of 4,200 rounds per minute sustained rate of fire. Young wrote, “Seventy bullets per second creates a steady stream of red tracer fire that with depleted uranium shells can easily turn armored vehicles into Swiss cheese.” Prince has gone on to propose additional private military gunship assets to prospective clients with no news about any takers on his proposals.

The vulnerability of the gunship was underscored in the early morning of Jan. 31, 1991 over Khafji, Iraq during Operation Desert Storm: an AC-130H Spectre gunship from the 16th Special Operations Squadron, callsign “Spirit 03”, was supporting U.S. Marines during the Battle of Khafji. The Marines had called for an air strike on an Iraqi “missile battery”. There were three AC-130H Spectre gunships on station that night in support of the U.S. Marine operation in Khafji. But as sunrise approached the AC-130H gunships would become increasingly vulnerable to visual acquisition from ground gunners and missile crews as twilight appeared. As sunlight became visible over the horizon the AC-130H successfully struck the targets designated by the U.S. Marines. But minutes later an Iraqi SA-7 “Grail” man-portable surface-to-air missile hit the last remaining AC-130H, “Spirit 03”. Although the aircraft survived the initial hit from the SA-7 and managed to fly out over water, the plane and its entire 14-man crew were lost. The incident underscored the vulnerability of the large, relatively low altitude, slow-moving gunship to modern man-portable anti-aircraft weapons.

Gunship operations continued in the most recent years of the Global War on Terror, but one of their latest operational uses underscored the need for enhanced ground intelligence and gunship integration. On Oct. 3, 2015, an AC-130U gunship launched a precision air strike on a target in Kunduz, Afghanistan at the Kunduz Trauma Center. The target was thought to be harboring Taliban militants. During the 30-minute airstrike the international aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières said that, “at least 42 people were killed and over 30 were injured”. The organization claimed that many of the casualties were non-combatants. While the incident was disastrous from a political and humanitarian perspective, it underscored the lethal effectiveness of the AC-130 gunship platform.

There are very few details about the gunship operations in Iraq. Among the things that we know is that two AC-130s along with some A-10 Warthogs were involved in a quite famous airstrike during which 116 ISIS-controlled fuel trucks were destroyed near Abu Kamal, Syria, on Nov. 15, 2015 as part of the coalition’s Operation Tidal Wave II.

Today the gunship legacy continues with the September 2017 delivery of the first six AC-130J Ghostrider gunships, the latest and most advanced version of the AC-130. The new AC-130J is a massive upgrade over previous versions: according to Air Force Times writer Stephen Losey, “The most heavily-armed gunship in history, bristling with 30mm and 105mm cannons, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, and the ability to carry Hellfire missiles and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs.”

Stephen Losey also reports in an October 2016 article in the “Air Force Times” that the performance of the new AC-130J Ghostrider is greatly enhanced over previous AC-130 versions. “It’s lighter, faster and more efficient.” Losey quoted USAF Maj. Jarrod Beers, a weapons system officer on the new AC-130J. According to Losey, Maj. Beers told him, “[It] burns 25 to 30 percent less gas than legacy aircraft. It flies at a top speed of about 362 knots, or 416 miles per hour – well above the roughly 300 mph top speed of the AC-130U. The AC-130J can fly a maximum range of 3,000 miles and up to 28,000 feet in the air – about twice as far, and roughly 3,000 feet higher than the AC-130U.”

Tech. Sgt. Jarred Huseman, left, and Tech. Sgt. Oscar Garcia, special missions aviators with the 1st Special Operations Group, Detachment 2, operate a 105 mm cannon on an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, “Angry Annie,” during a training mission over Eglin Range, Fla., Jan. 23, 2017. The 105 mm cannon recoils back 49 inches, with 14,000 pounds of force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson)

There is even discussion of installing a laser weapon on the AC-130U. An April 2017 report in “National Defense” by reporter Yasmin Tadjdeh said that the Air Force is going to test “streamlined electrical lasers” as opposed to heavy chemical lasers for use onboard the AC-130U. The primary challenges remaining are insulation from airframe vibration and turbulence to maintain a suitably focused beam. But when you consider advances in commercial optical stabilization in everything from GoPro camera mounts to long telephoto lenses on still and video cameras, this problem will be rapidly solved for laser weapon use onboard the AC-130U. In testing, the laser weapon would replace the current location of the 30mm gun and add the installation of a special clear optical “window” the laser could shoot through to eliminate movement of the weapon from the boundary layer of air entering the fuselage.

Future AC-130s may be equipped with stabilized laser weapons. (Photo: USAF)

Although there is no current (unclassified) plan to install a laser weapon operationally on the AC-130U Ghostrider, that is subject to change pending the outcome of the weapon evaluation. But one thing that is absolutely guaranteed, especially according to AC-130 gunship crews we spoke to at the Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo 2017 at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The heavy gunship is not going away anytime soon, even with the integration of new strike assets like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and evaluation programs like the Light Attack Experiment. The heavy gunship will remain relevant, increasingly lethal but significantly less vulnerable for many years to come.

We Have Visited Powidz Air Base, Poland, During Aviation Rotation 18-1 In Support Of Operation Atlantic Resolve

Starting from Oct. 13. Polish Powidz AB (33rd Airlift Base) has hosted US airlift aviation crews flying the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Within the framework of Rotation 18-1, the second one held this year, almost 130 US airmen have taken part in the joint training with four USAF and two Polish Air Force C-130 airlifters. On Nov. 8, we visited Powdiz during the rotation’s media day to get some insights into the American Deployment.

During the Detachment, two missions a day were flown – one at night and one during the day, lasting on average 3 hours. The sorties were preceded by many hours of preparations and two-hour briefing, as explained by the 33rd Airlift Base’s spokeswoman, Cpt. Martyna Fedro Samojedny.

The flying took place in any weather conditions that would make it possible to complete the mission, all over the territory of Poland.

C130J from the 934th Airlift Wing at Powdiz, Poland.

The training involved 2 C-130H airframes of the 96th Airlift Squadron 934th Airlift wing, hailing from Minneapolis, two C-130J airframes of the 37th Airlift Squadron of the 86th Airlift Wing hailing from Ramstein and two C-130E aircraft stationed locally, at the 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force. Furthermore, the training also involved more Polish units, including the 1st Airlift Wing, 2nd Tactical Aviation Wing and the 6th Airborne Brigade.

One of the Polish Air Force C-130s taking part in the joint drills with the U.S. “Herkys”.

The missions included formation flying, cargo and paratrooper drops, grass strip operations, fighter engagements, NVGs and low-level training.

Tactical airdrop over Powdiz.

Tactical airdrop over Powdiz.

Polish Air Force C-130E about to land at Powdiz.

The whole deployment allowed the Poles to gather new, invaluable experiences, as the Polish staff also had an opportunity to polish its language skills. Moreover, the operation allowed the involved parties to unify and standardize the operational procedures, through joint planning of the missions.

The U.S. and Polish teams together for a group photo during the Media Day.

Images: Jacek Siminski and Witosław Stachowiak

U.S. and Polish Hercules trained to perform cargo drops while evading MiG-29 interception during exercise in Poland

Take a look at these interesting photographs of Polish and U.S. C-130 Hercules performing cargo-drops, landings on unprepared strips, while evading MiG-29 fighter engagements.

U.S. and Polish C-130 aircrews took part in exercise AvDet 17-2 a Hercules Training Operation that took place between Mar. 3 and 28, at Powidz airbase located in Central Poland.

AvDet 17-2 included a cargo-drop and precise-landing contest as well as tactical sorties, landings on unprepared strips, fighter engagements with the Polish MiG-29 fighter aircraft, and night operations carried out with the use of NVGs (Night Vision Goggles).

Every sortie began with a mass briefing, during which the formation leader explained and specified the assumptions and objectives of the mission, along with the details of the route and safety and communications aspects concerning the crews.

On the day when Foto Poork’s Filip Modrzejewski visited the airbase, fighter engagement sorties were planned with the involvement of the Polish Air Force MiG-29 jets hailing from the Minsk Mazowiecki airbase, located in the vicinity of Warsaw.

The goal of such sorties was to allow the Fulcrum pilots to refine their intercept skills, while allowing the Hercules crews to deal with enemy fighters by proper route planning and tactical maneuvers.

Modrzejewski was given the opportunity to fly aboard a Polish C-130 during a mission mainly flown at 14,000 feet (probably, a bit too high to avoid interception). The Hercules crews claimed that even though the MiG-29 radar is not a state of the art system, it has more than enough capability to detect and lock onto an “enemy” Hercules.

C-130s heading to the drop zone

The tactics adopted in scenarios as such include tactical maneuvers at high G rates, or complete evasion and avoidance of the areas within which the fighter aircraft remain active. Nonetheless, the airlifters were eventually intercepted by a pair of Fulcrums, and then a short formation flight with the MiGs took place, with the crews enjoying the company of the fighter aircraft. After the “show of force” came to an end, the cargo planes returned to base, with a follow-up debriefing.

A MiG-29 escorts the Polish C-130 after intercepting the Hercules flying a tactical airlift mission

Beyond the fighter engagement sorties, cargo drops were performed at night and during the day. In bad weather conditions, the drops were carried out with the use of sandbags, instead of real payload or personnel, to avoid potential losses. The operations took place in the airspace over the 33rd Airlift Base in Powidz. Even though some plans existed to perform sorties over the so-called Błędowska Desert area in Poland, the arrangement was eventually canceled due to adverse weather conditions in that region.

Polish C-130 performs tactical air drop

Airdrop in progress!

U.S. C-130H Hercules over Powdiz

When it comes to the precision cargo drop and landing contest, finalizing the exercise, the crew of the ‘1501’ Hercules aircraft, the very same airlifter that was the first one that has been delivered to Poland exactly eight years ago, won the competition held within the framework of the US AvDet 17-2 training operation.

View from the cargo door of the Hercules

A glimpse into the cockpit of the Polish Air Force C-130

The competition took place on Mar. 24. 2017 and involved four crews – two from the US and two from Poland. The American airmen, as noted within the official report issued by the Polish MoD, operated the C-130H airframes, whereas the Polish crews were flying the C-130E variant, with the crews including pilots, loadmasters, flight engineers and navigators.

The contest covered the areas of precise landings and precise cargo drops. Polish Air Force’s ‘1501’ airframes, commanded by Cpt. Szymon Gajowniczek, has left the competition far behind, winning in both categories.

The U.S. “legacy” C-130 taxiing

In case of the cargo-drop portion of the contest, the winners were able to drop the load 48 meters from the target, 3 meters closer than the American crew managed to do.

In case of the landing competition, the Polish pilots managed to land only 12 meters from the indicated point. Considering the fact that C-130E is 30 meters long, the aforesaid results are very impressive.

Landing on an unprepared strip

Image Credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz and Filip Modrzejewski

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Here’s how an Integrated U.S. Force Secures a Critical Airfield in Contested Space

Awesome images of A-10s, C-17s and C-130s involved in JFEX exercise.

The battle went unnoticed by most.

On Saturday, Jun. 18 a joint aerial friendly force faced a very capable and determined adversary.  The adversary fielded a world class air force combined with advanced radar and surface to air missile sites that create an Anti-Access/Area-Denial zone (A2/AD).

Within that zone, lay the target –  a critical airfield.  Operational plans called for a combined force of 39 C-17As and C-130H&Js to land equipment and drop paratroops from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division onto the airfield and secure it.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

This is the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise, or JFEX.

JFEX takes place twice a year as one of the final assignments for those participating in the U.S. Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS).  The Weapons School represents the highest level of training offered by the USAF.  Those selected to participate are typically instructors on their platforms (aircraft/systems), and have demonstrated leadership excellence. Weapons School graduates are among the finest leaders and advanced integration warfighters on the planet.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield. on the NTTR. Overhead, F-15s, F-16s, B-52s and more keep the skies and ground clear of threats during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield. on the NTTR. Overhead, F-15s, F-16s, B-52s and more keep the skies and ground clear of threats during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

The Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) provides the ideal venue for the exercise.  The restricted NTTR features advanced radar systems, surface to air missile sites (SAM), scores of ground targets as well as the unimproved Keno airfield.  These systems are configured to create the most challenging and realistic A2/AD threat.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 437 AW/315 AW, Charleston, SC "cleans" the runway during take off from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 437 AW/315 AW, Charleston, SC “cleans” the runway during take off from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

In addition to the transports, the joint Blue force utilized 33 aircraft of 9 platforms (F-16CM, F-15C, F-15E, EA-18G, B-52, A-10, E-3, RC-135J, E8, MQ-9).  Advanced command and control capabilities were complemented by Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) on the ground in the vicinity of the airfield.

A-10C of the 66 WPS, Nellis AFB turns away from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX. The A-10C offered close air support in the immediate victinity of the airfield during the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

A-10C of the 66 WPS, Nellis AFB turns away from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX. The A-10C offered close air support in the immediate victinity of the airfield during the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

The Red Force included 10 aircraft (8 F-16s and 2 A-4s) complemented by a ground force that included U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).  The adversary ground threat combine and coordinate with Red air flying F-16s out of Nellis AFB.  Together, they form a dynamic and unpredictable adversary that must be forcibly neutralized.

Ground launched rocket streaks in front of C-17A's incoming for airdrop on Keno field in the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Ground launched rocket streaks in front of C-17A’s incoming for airdrop on Keno field in the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Col. Michael Drowley, Commandant of the USAFWS, notes that “…weapons school graduates are challenged to solve very difficult problems, given the smaller force size, integration is the key to success.”   JFEX demands the advanced platform and service integration that is anticipated in future warfare.

Air Mobility Command C-130J-30 of Little Rock AFB, AR overflies Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).  The "J's" ramp is open as it prepares to drop U.S. Army paratroppers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Air Mobility Command C-130J-30 of Little Rock AFB, AR overflies Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016). The “J’s” ramp is open as it prepares to drop U.S. Army paratroppers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

With primary air and ground threats neutralized, the massive force of C-17As and C-130H and Js appeared over the field on cue.  Some of the transport aircraft had flown direct to the central Nevada location from distances as far as Fort Bragg, NC.  Throughout the operation, A-10s remained low and close to the airfield neutralizing any dynamic threats.  F-16CMs, F-15Cs and B-52s circled high overhead responding to ongoing SAM and air threats.  The exercise involved nearly 600 participants and went smoothly, though high surface winds led to an abort of the paratrooper jump.

F-15C of the 433 WPS launches flares while providing Defensive Counter Air over Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

F-15C of the 433 WPS launches flares while providing Defensive Counter Air over Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Effective training challenges are those that are more difficult than real world scenarios.  Judging by this JFEX, the 2016-A class of Weapons Officers are ready for any challenge an adversary brings.

A-10C from Nellis, AFB provides Close Air Support at Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEC (Dec 2015)

A-10C from Nellis, AFB provides Close Air Support at Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEC (Dec 2015)

Heartfelt thanks for the support provided by the USAF ACC 99 ABW PAO, specifically SrA Joshua Kleinholz, and Susan Garcia, U.S. Weapons School. Photo contributions by photographer Eric Bowen, JFEX Dec 2015.

Top image: Erik Bowen

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