The tactical airdrop training event featured multiple static-line airborne jumps onto a drop zone in the vicinity of Câmpia Turzii Air Base. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
As one of the 12 member nations of the SAC, Romania has access to 200 C-17A flight hours per year. Thus, SAC C-17As are a familiar sight at several Romanian air bases and airports. In addition, the Romanian Special Forces have become a regular and reliable training partner to the multinational flight crews of the HAW. Since 2014, Romanian Special Forces have carried out tactical airdrop training with SAC C-17As twice per year.
This time, approximately 300 Romanian soldiers from different Special Forces, reconnaissance and airborne units took part in the exercise. The Romanian troops were led by Brigadier General Constantin-Adrian Ciolponea. According to him, the main objective of the regular tactical airdrop training events with the HAW is to increase the interoperability of Romanian airborne units with the C-17A airframe.
Brigadier General Ciolponea standing in front of his soldiers at Câmpia Turzii Air Base. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
"Our Special Forces, reconnaissance and airborne units train usually with the C-27J Spartan and C-130H Hercules tactical airlifters, and the IAR 330 Puma transport helicopters of the Romanian Air Force. Being able to train with a C-17A enables us to further enhance interoperability with our NATO partners", Brig Gen Ciolponea emphasized.
Of course, it is impossible to increase interoperability without testing e.g. equipment, techniques and Standard Operating Procedures in practice. "For instance, cooperation with the HAW helps our combat jumpmasters to gain and sustain their C-17A qualifications. Our soldiers have been impressed by the capabilities of the C-17A airframe, they always look forward to these training events with the HAW", Brig Gen Ciolponea said.
According to Captain Michael Hank of the United States Air Force (USAF), the Chief of Wing Tactics at the HAW, the tactical airdrop training included both HALO (High-Altitude Low Opening) and HAHO (High Altitude-High Opening) jumps to simulate a rapid Special Forces aerial delivery in a contested environment. "Once the Special Forces had secured the drop zone, conventional troops conducted static-line jumps for the sustainment of the drop zone", Captain Hank described the scenario.
During the tactical airdrop training event, soldiers from different Special Forces units of the Romanian Army had the opportunity to do multiple HALO (High-Altitude Low Opening) and HAHO (High Altitude-High Opening) jumps. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
In total, the SAC C-17A supported 1,780 airborne jumps during the four-day training event. The impressive figure was achieved thanks to a multinational aircrew comprising of pilots, loadmasters and flying crew chiefs from the United States, the Netherlands and Sweden. Major Stephen Blackstone (USAF), HAW Heavy Airlift Squadron's Assistant Director of Operations, who served as the aircraft commander during the mission, emphasized that tactical airdrop training with the Romanian Army was highly beneficial also for the aircrew.
"The airdrop sorties over the past four days were a great opportunity for my Swedish co-pilot, who recently graduated airdrop school, to gain proficiency in C-17A CDS, static-line personnel, and high altitude personnel airdrop operations. In addition to supporting the Romanian training event, which was a qualification jump for their paratroopers on MC-6, MC-1D, and PSPM-1 static-line parachutes, it helped our loadmasters to maintain their currency and increase proficiency to execute these airdrop missions and improve interoperability with the airborne forces of the HAW member nations", Maj Blackstone explained.
A Romanian jumpmaster observes his men conducting a static-line jump out of a SAC C-17A. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
About the Strategic Airlift Capability
Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), established in 2008, is a multinational program that provides its 12 member nations with assured access to military airlift capability by owning and operating three Boeing C-17A Globemaster III long-range cargo aircraft.
SAC is based at the Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF) Pápa Air Base, Hungary.
The SAC Nations are the NATO members Hungary (program host nation), Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States and NATO Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden. Each participating nation owns a share of the available flight hours of the SAC C-17As to serve the needs of their national defence, NATO, EU or UN commitments and humanitarian relief efforts.
SAC consists of the 12-nation Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) and the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO). The HAW is the operational unit and the NAM PO, an integral part of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), is the acquisition and sustainment authority of the SAC C-17A weapon system.
NAM PO contracts Boeing via a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement to provide technical support for the SAC C-17A aircraft.