'Sky Soldiers' of the 173rd Airborne Brigade line up to enter a SAC C-17 at Aviano Air Base on 12 April. Photo: HAW / OF-1 Tuomas Saavalainen.
On 11 April, the two SAC C-17s were among the 17 aircraft carrying out simultaneous heavy equipment and personnel airborne operations onto two different drop zones at the Hohenfels Training Area. Early in the morning, the two aircraft departed their home base in Pápa, Hungary, in order to join the two C-17s and 12 C-130s of the United States Air Force and the one C-130 of the Royal Air Force at Aviano Air Base. After the arrival in Aviano, both SAC C-17s were loaded with four heavy airdrop platforms rigged with all-terrain vehicles and mortars of the Folgore Airborne Brigade of the Italian Army.
Once HAW loadmasters and Aviano Air Base Aerial Port technicians had loaded the cargo, approximately 50 paratroopers from the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade boarded each aircraft. As soon as all the aircraft were ready, they took off and headed for the Hohenfels Training Area. At the designated drop zone, both C-17s executed a successful quadruple sequential heavy drop, in which all the four heavy airdrop platforms exit the aircraft in less than 20 seconds. The two consecutive quadruple sequential heavy drops were the first ones in the history of the HAW.
The quadruple sequential heavy drop on 11 April. Video: HAW / TSgt Christian van Pol.
In addition, it was the first time the SAC C-17s have dropped equipment belonging to the Folgore Airborne Brigade. Thanks to the successful airdrops, Italian paratroopers participating in Exercise Saber Junction 2016 received vital equipment on the ground. After the airdrops, it was time for the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to get ready for their jump. After the multinational airborne jump, all 17 aircraft returned to Aviano.
The light is green for the 'Sky Soldiers' of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to exit the SAC C-17 on 11 April. Photo: HAW / OF-1 Tuomas Saavalainen.
The SAC C-17s executed different missions each day during their participation in the exercise. On 12 April, the aircraft transported troops and M119A3 Light Towed Howitzers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Aviano Air Base to Nuremberg Airport, Germany. Before returning to Pápa on 13 April, the SAC C-17s supported the troops at the Hohenfels Training Area with airdrops of MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) field rations and other material.
From 11 to 13 April, the HAW successfully executed the airlift requests of SAC member nation the United States. As the 16-nation Exercise Saber Junction 2016 also features units from SAC members Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovenia, it was important for the HAW to be able to support the exercise. Successful mission execution would not have been possible without the professionalism of the multinational HAW aircrews. From 11 to 13 April, the two C-17s were operated by pilots, loadmasters and flying crew chiefs from the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Romania.
HAW loadmasters observe a successful airdrop of MRE field rations and other material on 13 April. Photo: USAF / 31st Fighter Wing / SrA Krystal Ardrey.
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.