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11/28/2016 11:50 AM
Off-Station Training 2016 - An Airdrop Campaign Across Europe
28 NOV 2016 – PÁPA - - Early morning at Pápa Air Base, in the Heavy Airlift Squadron briefing room two aircrews have gathered to make final preparations for the "Peacemaster Unity" Off-Station Trainer (OST) 2016. For a little more than a week in September, two SAC C-17’s will conduct airdrop missions of nearly 2,000 paratroopers from SAC member countries. Platforms with heavy equipment and CDS-bundles will also be dropped.

​Peacemaster Unity is an exercise that meets objectives both for the Heavy Airlift Squadron (HAS) and the land forces that participate. The goal of the exercise is to maximize training for HAS aircrews in a Joint Force Exercise environment. Historically SAC conducts off-station training two times a year to meet training and currency requirements that are not met during routine training sorties. It provides valuable real world training and multinational exercise integration for the aircrews. 16 units across 5 SAC nations have agreed on timelines and pre-positioning of troops in order to make the exercise happen.
One of the aircraft heads to Aviano via Krakow, to set up the mission planning cell.
Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

During the main part of the exercise the two SAC C-17's will be based out of Aviano Air Base.  But first one of the aircraft heads to Riga, Latvia where it will conduct personnel airdrops. The other aircraft heads to Aviano in Italy to set up the Mission Planning Cell.

The activity level in the OST 2016 Mission Planning Cell is already high the first day. The exercise planner for the land forces has made some changes in the airdrop plan. This means that adjustments to the current plan needs to be made.
HAS Aircrews at work in the mission planning cell. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

It's evident that an airdrop exercise requires a lot of planning. From early morning to late into the evening, plans are made for the upcoming passes. The day ends with a Joint Mission Brief, where land force jumpmasters and aircrews do a detailed walk-through of tomorrow's mission.
A joint mission brief concludes the day. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

Personnel airdrops are scheduled for the first day.  As the sun is rising as the first 100 jumpers board the aircraft.
The first batch of paratroopers board the aircraft. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

In Aviano, the drop zones are just a short distance away.  Because of this, the paratroopers get the 10 minute alert while still on the on the ground. As soon as the aircraft is airborne, the jumpers get the 6 minute alert and they hook up to the static line.
Jumpers hooked up to the static line. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.
In this exercise they perform a mass exit from both paratroop doors in the rear of the aircraft. The parachutes are triggered automatically as the troops exit the aircraft.
Shortly before the doors open, a loadmaster opens the paratroop doors. Jumpmasters and loadmasters inspect the door to ensure there is nothing there that may harm the jumpers or damage the parachute equipment. 
Thumbs-Up. Paratroop door is inspected, and jumpers are ready to go. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.
With thirty seconds left to the drop zone, the jumpers take their place in the doors. The loadmasters do a countdown from five seconds. The light turns green and jumper after jumper disappears out the door. After a pre-determined time the light turns red again. The time for the green light time is determined by the size of the drop zone and is carefully calculated by the aircrew.
Paratroopers exits through both paratroop doors simultaneously. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

As soon as the troops have exited the aircraft, it returns to base to upload new paratroopers. At the end of the day the SAC C-17 has dropped more than 400 paratroopers from the member countries in Italy alone. In Riga, Latvia, another of the SAC C-17's has dropped an additional batch of paratroopers.
A quick debrief before it's time to call it a day. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

After completing its mission in Latvia the SAC C-17 repositions to Aviano. It is now time to airdrop not only personnel, but platforms with heavy equipment. Both aircraft are loaded with similar cargo. The platforms are rigged with Howitzers and Jeeps.
Loadmaster prepares the extraction chute for a heavy platform. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

One of the loadmasters notes that "We smell the warm metal as platforms leave the aircraft. The smell comes from the heat generated by contact between the rollers on the floor of the aircraft and the platforms being pulled out by the extraction chute".
A Howitzer platform exits a SAC C-17. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

After the job in Italy is done, the two SAC C-17's part ways again. One aircraft heads back to Pápa, dropping off Polish troops on the way. The other aircraft goes to Sweden via Eindhoven, where troops from the Netherlands get off. In Sweden the SAC C-17 is planning a CDS drop of 40 bundles. It is the first time that SAC will perform a CDS drop with the maximum amount of CDS bundles, and it is also the biggest CDS drop ever performed in Sweden.
Preparations for first ever 40 bundles CDS drop performed by SAC. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

The loading of the CDS bundles is accomplished the night before the event. The weather is initially a factor on drop day, but after a few hours the cloud base raises and the airdrop can be conducted as planned, in a drop zone just minutes from the Air Base.
The last two of the 40 bundles leaves the aircraft. Photo: HAW / Henrik Gebhardt.

OST 2016 and Exercise "Peacemaster Unity" are over. To summarize the exercise, SAC C-17's conducted airdrops of nearly 2,000 paratroopers, several heavy equipment platforms and an historic first SAC and Swedish maximum 40 bundle CDS airdrop.


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.