Thursday, December 31, 2009

86th AW expands Air Forces Africa support with first Super Herc flight

by Senior Airman Stefanie Torres, 17th Air Force Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The first C-130J Super Hercules mission in support of U.S. Air Forces Africa, or 17th Air Force, opened up doors to a future partnership of support between the 86th Airlift Wing and upcoming missions into Africa.

The mission's aircraft commander, Maj. Robert May of the 37th Airlift Squadron, and his crew were tasked to fly into Mali Dec. 19 to bring home 17 troops who were assisting with training Malian forces.

The significance of this mission is two-fold, Major May said.

"First, we now recognize the capability of the J-model aircraft," he said. "I really believe that the J-model is uniquely going to show our capabilities in Africa. Second, this shows we can support the guys on the ground with a very reliable aircraft."

The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130 fleet, replacing C-130Es. The 86th AW is the first wing outside the U.S. to have the C-130J assigned. The unit began receiving the Super Hercules in April 2009, and in late December took delivery of the 10th and 11th aircraft in the fleet of 14 to be assigned to the 37th AS and 86th AW.

"AFAFRICA will be able to call on the 37th AS to support the mission," the major said. "I know this is something our aircrews look forward to."

The J-model has six-blade propellers, new turboprop engines and is larger than previous models. It climbs faster and higher, has a longer range at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance.

The J-model can also perform three times the workload of the previous models, increasing mission capability. Brig. Gen. Michael W. Callan, the Vice Commander at 17th AF, recently experienced these capabilities first hand. He flew one of the 37th AS's new J-models from the Lockheed-Martin plant in Marietta, Ga. to Ramstein Air Base, Germany Dec. 23.

"The J-model is a significant improvement over the C-130H and E models," General Callan said. "It's range and enhanced payload will make the 86th Airlift Wing even more capable of supporting missions in Africa. We're very lucky to have the 86th so close."

The General's sentiments were echoed by Lockheed-Martin.

"The C-130J is the most advanced tactical airlifter in the world," said Mr. Peter Simmons, the Communications director for C-130 programs for Lockheed-Martin. "The newly formed mission in support of Africa Command has given us yet another opportunity to see how this aircraft can operate in a testing environment. Yet, the aircraft is ideally suited for the missions flown on the African continent."

The maximum load of the C-130 J is 45,000 pounds. However, a bigger aircraft doesn't necessarily mean a bigger crew. This cargo plane only needs a minimum of three crew members compared to five on the older models, he explained.

"With a 20,000-pound payload, the aircraft can fly more than 4,000 nautical miles and is well over 15 percent more fuel efficient as well," said Mr. Simmons.

Ultimately, this mission was only a beginning. J-model crews here were excited at the challenge presented by supporting AFAFRICA.

"The increased missions will be a challenge, but we are excited to take this on," Major May said.