LCLA--Another first for the Flying Yankees

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
For the first time in Flying Yankee history, the 103rd Airlift Wing conducted a local low-cost low-altitude air drop (LCLA) training exercise. C-130 Hercules aircraft belonging to the Connecticut Air National Guard, in coordination with the 439th Westover Air Reserve Base, successfully dropped training bundles tailored specifically for this purpose at a secluded drop zone.

The LCLA airdrops are intended for the C-130 to efficiently drop supplies or any crucial materials demanded by the battlefield at a below average altitude to lessen the threat to whomever may be receiving the care package. By dropping at a below average altitude, the aircrew can be more accurate with their target. The mission is relatively inexpensive because the parachutes used are disposable; as such, troops on the ground can spend less time recovering the package. For this training mission, the parachutes used where recycled personnel parachutes and were recovered.

A team of loadmasters is assembled to make sure that the bundle is capable of performing its intended purpose. In sync with the pilots and flight engineer, they also are responsible for the bundle being accurately dropped on the intended target. According to Master Sgt. Bryan Watson, load master with the 103rd Airlift Wing, if the load were to exit the airplane not properly configured, the bundle can completely miss its target or, worse, strike the aircraft. Considering it's a low-altitude drop, the bundle size can be no more than 600 lbs. The load masters are also able to construct various types of configurations that allow them to drop more than one bundle at a time. With the bundles being smaller, loadmasters are capable of dropping bundles off of both the left and right sides of the rear of the aircraft.

Prior to approaching the drop site, the pilots are up front assessing the area for threats or hazards that may hinder the execution of a safe air drop, while the flight engineer is monitoring all the systems within the aircraft.

"It's important to communicate in these situations," said Watson. "Usually you don't get a re-do with these things."

Watson initially received the appropriate training at the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center (AATTC), St. Joseph, Mississippi. Once back at the 103rd Airlift Wing, he was able to train the Flying Yankees in LCLA air drops and is continuing to do so.

The 103rd is getting ready to enter a deployment cycle; having the LCLA air drop capability is vital to the mission.

"It gives the wing as a whole another capability, especially in the dessert--it's such a dynamic environment, we'll have the opportunity to help others in dire need," Watson said.

The LCLA airdrop technique has been in use for only about six years. The U.S. Air Force executed the first mission of its kind in Afghanistan, 2010.

Training opportunities such as these propel the 103rd Airlift Wing closer to becoming an all-around combat-ready platform. Being able to lower the risk of troops by efficiently executing LCLA air drops is another tool in the arsenal of the 103rd Bradley Air National Guard Base. The loadmasters, as well as the rest of the aircrew, are continuing to train on various styles of air drops--stay tuned for updates.