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    Closing the last mile

    Closing the last mile

    Photo By Maj. Richard Barker | Loadmasters with the Air Force and Army work with air transportation specialists with...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Richard Barker 

    25th Combat Aviation Brigade

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - With its smaller frame and dual turboprop engines, the C-27J Spartan aircraft may not look like much. However, to soldiers on the ground, the C-27J is a reliable method of receiving mission essential supplies delivered over impassible terrain within hours of making a request.

    Since beginning operations in August 2011, two C-27J aircraft have been tactically controlled by the 159th and 25th Combat Aviation Brigades.

    They have performed 67 airdrops and delivered more than 277 container delivery systems containing vital supplies such as food, water, blood and ammunition to special operations forces located in the unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan.

    The 25th CAB makes this support possible as a result of its solid understanding of soldiers' needs and its tactical control of the C-27J aircraft that are operated by the 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

    "The C-27J was chosen to provide a simple solution to U.S. Army Fixed-Wing aircraft, and to provide operational and cost relief from the
    CH-47 Chinooks," said Air Force Capt. Steffen Landrum, 702nd EAS liaison officer to the 25th CAB.

    Maj. Craig Jayson, executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, says with the C-27J relieving his unit's Chinooks, the unit has the opportunity to fly more missions to forward operating bases which the C-27J does not have access to.

    "We can focus on picking up personnel and equipment that are lower priority and fulfill requests that are normally canceled due to lack of resources," said Jayson. "Overall, the C-27J increases our flexibility and ability to support more customers in a single day."

    An increase in C-27J missions also decrease the costs associated with
    CH-47 missions as well.

    "The hourly operational cost of a resupply mission using the Chinook is more than $7,500 an hour for the CH-47D and $9,000 an hour for the CH-47F," said Jayson.

    Based off Landrum's calculations, the U.S. Army has saved $30 million by conducting missions with the C-27J instead of the CH-47 Chinook.

    When it comes to relieving the CH-47 Chinook with fixed wing assets, the C-27J seems to be the best choice over other fixed-wing options.

    "The C-27J has all of the benefits of a fixed wing aircraft such as speed, altitude, payload capacity and range, yet also possesses the ability to conduct many mission sets similar to rotary winged cargo aircraft," said Sgt. Maj. Ronald Graves, 25th CAB operations sergeant major.

    Adding to the list of the C-27J's benefits, Graves said the aircraft can operate in adverse weather and with limited visibility. Also the C-27J can land on a 2,400-foot dirt strip as opposed to the 3,000 feet a C-130 Hercules requires.

    Perhaps the biggest advantage the C-27J currently offers the Army is the fact it is tactically controlled by 25th CAB commander Col. Frank Tate. The tactical control gives him the flexibility to provide immediate support to soldiers on the battlefield.

    "This relationship allows for quick and dynamic tasking, when required, which greatly increases our ability to deliver nearly anything, anywhere, in support of the soldier in the fight," said Graves.

    Tate and the 25th CAB understand the needs of the soldiers on the ground.

    "The requirements of the Army commander are most times speed not quantity," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Charette, director of operations for the 702nd EAS. "We often move very small amounts of soldiers, aircraft parts or blood for the needs of the frontline unit."

    Some of the C-27J's flexibility is a result of its smaller airframe which allows it to push small portions of emergency supplies.

    "Special operations forces don't want 16 container delivery system bundles and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center doesn't want to launch one C-130 or C-17 for 6 container delivery system bundles," said Landrum.

    Charette backed up Landrum's statement.

    "When you put one to two container delivery systems in a C-130 you have used 20-25 percent of its capacity, whereas the same load is 50-75 percent of the C-27J capacity. Since the Air Force is usually concerned about efficiency, the C-27J is by far the better choice for the last tactical mile," said Charette.

    The last mile can be closed quickly when the movement is planned through the 25th CAB commander.

    "While the U.S. Air Force standard mission tasking process requires 96 hours of notice, the C-27J has been time on target in less than 24 hours while operating under Army tactical control," said Landrum. "For the troops out in the field that is the ultimate flexibility."

    Not only can the C-27J deliver supplies as fast as a C-130, the cost savings are impressive too.

    "So far, the C-27J has saved more than $3.8 million when compared to a C-130," said Landrum.

    With the C-27J's ability of rapid mission execution from request to delivery and its ability to move optimal amounts of mission critical supplies at a low operating cost, the C-27J provides a definite benefit to the soldiers and their teams conducting critical operations across Afghanistan to ensure the fight is won.



    Date Taken: 04.23.2012
    Date Posted: 04.23.2012 02:44
    Story ID: 87153

    Web Views: 1,056
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