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Posted: 12/23/2005 8:06:10 AM EDT



BY JAMES SCOTT
The Post and Courier


ON BOARD A C-17 - Flying between snow-capped mountains. Dropping vital supplies. Dodging enemy missiles.

All somewhere over Virginia, North Carolina and Orangeburg County.

In a massive training exercise Tuesday, 17 C-17 cargo jets - flying in the largest C-17 formation ever - practiced wartime maneuvers designed to sharpen the skills of air crews who routinely fly into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Col. Glen Joerger, commander of the Charleston Air Force Base's 437th Airlift Wing, said crews completed about 300 training exercises, including a midair refueling and flying in a formation that involved swooping over the Cooper River bridge at about 500 feet.

"This is some of the best training we'll do because we do such specialized missions," said Joerger, who was aboard the second C-17 in the convoy. "Charleston has to be able to do all of this."

At any given time, pilots from the base are hauling supplies into hot spots such as Baghdad, Balad and Baghram.

Outside the war, crews frequently are called on to help out with humanitarian aid, including after last year's tsunami in South Asia and, more recently, the earthquake in Pakistan.

The C-17's major mechanical defense involves flares designed to throw off heat-seaking sensors that are prevalent on many shoulder-fired missiles. Beyond flares, it depends on the defensive training and the ability of the pilots to keep the roughly $200 million planes from being shot down.

Tuesday's exercise, which started at about 10 a.m., began with all 17 planes buzzing past downtown Charleston. From there, crews turned north, heading to Virginia.

Descending as low as 500 feet, and flying at about 250 mph, crews practiced flying at low altitudes. Flying manually, pilots weaved between snowy mountain ravines and grazed over the tops of roofs, farms and lakes.

"Use the terrain to your advantage," Maj. Bill Hansen told another pilot during training. "Look at the terrain. Look at what's there to hide you, to protect you."

Beyond low-altitude flying, planes also simulated dodging rocket attacks and practiced evasive flying maneuvers.

Returning to South Carolina, crews prepared to airdrop supplies over North Auxiliary Air Field near Orangeburg. Lowering the rear cargo door of the plane, allowing cold air to rush inside, crews released 900-pound pallets that parachuted out the back.

Airdrop missions, officials said, play a vital role. Crews dropped food to Afghan civilians after the American invasion, as well as paratroopers in Iraq at the start of that war. Joerger said airdrops even were considered for parachuting in food this year to people stranded after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"There are certain missions where you can only use airdrops," said Lt. Col Rick Rupp. "This is something we partner with the Army on. The Army is our customer."
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 8:09:59 AM EDT
Call me when they turn 45 and are still in their prime.
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 8:30:50 AM EDT
I think that is called "loose formation." They need more practice. Really sriking photographs, nonetheless. Thanks!
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 9:34:52 AM EDT
no come talk to when you see this go over your house then we can talk.im near fort bragg and they fly right over my house usually 4 or 5 every ten minutes then they knock it off after they get to 20 or 25.kinda of cool to see C-17s at 500 ft or less. oh did i mention this is at 1 am in the morning.
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 10:19:24 AM EDT
Man...they coud put a metric shitload of airborne troops in a drop zone in a hurry!

Whatcha spose all that Jet A they're burning is worth?
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 10:24:10 AM EDT
Great pic!

Thanks for sharing.
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 10:28:10 AM EDT
C-17 was my ride home from the sandbox in 04
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 10:31:33 AM EDT
tag
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 11:15:15 AM EDT
Looks like the "Boys from Bragg" are headed to a party.......
Link Posted: 12/23/2005 11:21:10 AM EDT

Originally Posted By pcsutton:
Whatcha spose all that Jet A they're burning is worth?



Nothing.
The USAF uses JP-8.
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