Monday, October 30, 2006

Hercs in tactical action in Afstan/New naval choppers to carry troops

Some serious combat flying:
Tension builds as the big Canadian Hercules is forced to loiter in the air, announcing its presence, wheeling around, waiting, waiting, while a pair of helicopters clear the drop zone at a remote base where fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Taliban this weekend killed 70 insurgents.

On board are 10 tonnes of food, water and humanitarian aid supplies.

But instead of the planned quick surprise dash, dropping low into the valley and letting the heavy pallets of much-needed supplies rumble out the back of the Hercules to parachute to the embattled base, the four-engine transport plane is in a holding pattern.

Every minute uses fuel, which is now low. Every minute betrays, to the Taliban, the return of the big target that made an identical drop in the same place a day earlier.

Shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets are a danger. At the low, slow, drop heights, so are AK-47s. Hercs come back from missions like these with holes in them. A few bullets in the wrong places and they don't come back...

Tactical flying -- hauling big aircraft around at low levels, hugging the terrain, dropping down into valleys, just clearing ragged ridges, takeoffs that throw the big plane into tight turns or stomach-churning steep dives that end in deliberately hard landings -- is all part of the little-known role Canada's Hercules play in Afghanistan...

After the drop, the Canadian Hercules threads its way up a long, narrow canyon, its wingtips seemingly touching the rugged walls tipped red in the fading sunlight, before making a quick dash back to Kandahar...

The Hercules crews, the pilots and navigators and flight engineers, the loadmasters who handle the cargo, and the maintenance crews and ground support personnel all work a gruelling 56-day rotation. Two-thirds of that time is spent flying between Camp Mirage [our "secret" base in the Gulf] and Afghanistan, delivering everything from mail to spare parts to munitions to keep Canada's 2,300 soldiers supplied. One-third of the time, they are based in Afghanistan flying the sort of difficult, dangerous missions like yesterday's air drop. "Everyone who comes here likes those 18 days, it's what we train for," Capt. Moore said. "The runs from Camp Mirage are still important but it's routine."..

In Afghanistan, where Canada has no helicopters, its Hercs and the crews willing to fly them into tough spots to air-drop supplies in remote and dangerous locations have won it a reputation. Air sickness bags get handed out a lot...
Speaking of helicopters:
Ottawa has quietly amended its contract with the maker of the navy’s [actually they will be Air Force - MC] new Cyclone helicopters to ensure that the choppers will not only be able to hunt submarines, but also carry troops.

The design change, expected to add roughly $5 million to the overall price tag, would allow the air force to assign the choppers to a wide variety of roles — including potential air support for the army in Afghanistan.

The Defence Department, however, denies that it’s making the move with the Afghan mission specifically in mind.

Col. Dave Burt, director of air requirements for the department, acknowledged that being able to strip the H-92 quickly of its sonar and radar gear, and strap in troop seats, was not part of the initial design for the Cyclones, replacements for the decades-old Sea Kings.

The change "will provide us with far better flexibility and capability," said Burt.

As it stands, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan must hitch chopper rides into battle with other NATO countries...

But the decision to order the Cyclone change was not directly driven by the need for air support among Canada’s 2,500 troops in Kandahar, said Burt.

Nor has there been a decision to send the choppers to Afghanistan after they begin rolling off the assembly line in 2008, he said...

[CDS] Hillier wants to see the navy purchase or build an amphibious landing transport — or "Big Honkin’ Ship," as he calls it — to rapidly deploy soldiers to global hot spots. Troop-carrying helicopters are a must for that kind of warship.

The air force is already preparing for its new role by training existing Sea King pilots on the finer points of picking up and dropping off troops...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

bets line . . .

""They are impeccably maintained," he said. "We have the best 1965 Hercules out there."

8:45 a.m., October 30, 2006  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I agree that's a good line, Fred, but for my money, the best one came from Army.ca: "They could have left out prayer and included the other wing."

1:14 p.m., October 30, 2006  

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