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    Throwback airdrop – airlifters resurrect decades old-capability

    Droppin' cargo during Balikatan 2015

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Nathan Allen | U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ronald Flanagan, an aircrew flight equipment...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Matthew Bragg 

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

    BRIGADIER GENERAL BENITO EBUEN AIR BASE, Philippines -- Philippine and U.S. air forces’ aircrew met here April 23-25 for a subject matter expert exchange dedicated to reviving an airdrop capability that had been dormant for 18 years.

    C-130 pilots, loadmasters, maintainers, and others assembled at the air base as part of Exercise Balikatan 2015, an annual bilateral exercise in which U.S. military and Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” to share best practices, build relationships, and improve the ability to work together in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Philippine Air Force Maj. Ian Earth Lamzon, commander of the 220th Airlift Squadron here, said the need for the exchange arose from the need to overcome unique obstacles faced by the PAF.

    “During small contingencies and (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations) we found that runways become unavailable, meaning airdrop could only be performed,” Lamzon said. “Also, because runway lights tend to get destroyed as they did in Tacloban during Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, daytime flying becomes very congested and night flying is impossible.”

    U.S. Air Force Capt. Chris Clinton, BK15 mission commander, 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, agreed that a large driving force behind the need to discuss low-cost, low altitude airdrop and night vision flying were the challenges brought up during the response to Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

    “All of this is born out of lessons learned during Typhoon Yolanda,” Clinton said. “The Philippine Air Force couldn’t land (at Tacloban) at night because there was no lighting. We were able to because we were able to conduct night operations, but they couldn’t so it was frustrating for them. The airspace became very congested, and it becomes very frustrating. Also, there’s a lot of coastline in this country, which makes low-cost low-altitude capability here particularly valuable to provide airdrop to isolated areas.

    The nature of an exchange is the open flow of communication between participating parties. As such, Lamzon said he feels the U.S. airlifters were able to learn lessons about flying and operating in the Philippines.

    “We were able to help them understand the use of the airspace as well as coordination with civilian aeronautical authorities here,” he said. “Familiarizing themselves with checkpoints, waypoints for the drop, and observing limitations … we helped them to follow and respect the airspace limits here.”

    Since this newly re-discovered capability is now a bilateral capability, Clinton said, it will serve both forces well should the need arise to join forces shoulder-to-shoulder for a real-world mission in the future.

    “It provides a common ground, an avenue of interoperability. If they continue to develop this, we both can conduct airdrop operations jointly,” he said. “If another natural disaster were to strike the Philippines, if they have an airdrop capability, we can both be airdropping to provide relief to affected areas.”

    Clinton also complimented the creativity and determination the PAF mustered to revive its airdrop capability in such a short amount of time.

    “It was interesting to see their ingenuity in taking what they learned from us, observing us do the airdrop and then doing it their own way,” he said. “It was great seeing that process real time. We literally had front row seats to watch them develop a capability they haven’t had in 18 years, and we were able to see it from start to finish.”



    Date Taken: 04.25.2015
    Date Posted: 04.28.2015 23:13
    Story ID: 161614

    Web Views: 378
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