Iraq, Afghanistan airdrops reach all-time high

Gateway to the World

Gateway to the World

A United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airlifter banks above the Arthur Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina. The C-17 is assigned to Charleston Air Force Base. Find the C-17 Globemaster III “Gateway to the World” tee-shirt at The Military Chest.

Resupplying U.S. and coalition forces on the ground is a critical logistical component of combat operations. Seven months into 2008, the Air Force has already supplied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 8.5 million pounds of goods. This surpasses the 2007 total and reaches an all-time high in what promises to be a historical year for tactical airdrops.

In comparison to airdrops in 2005, the Air Force has dropped more than six times that amount so far this year, and three times the amount airdropped in 2006.

“Airdrop capability is indicative of the asymmetric advantages of airpower throughout the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility,” said Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central and CENTCOM Combined Force Air Component Commander. “Our U.S. Air Force and coalition air forces’ capability to airdrop supplies to our ground forces in isolated environments allows the collective forces to maintain the pressure on the enemy. In many places in Afghanistan, our airdrops are the sole source of resupply to ground forces.

“The ability to provide this resupply in both routine and emergency situations is very rewarding for our aircrews and the joint service support crews that prepare the airdrop cargo, from rigging the bundles to loading the aircraft.”

By providing troops on the ground with the necessary supplies, it enables ground forces to promote safety and security for the people in both countries.

“This particular airdrop milestone marks the greatest amount of combat resupply in a single year since hostilities began in 2001,” said Maj. Andrew M. Purath, air mobility division tactics chief at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center. “Our ability to airdrop supplies and equipment from our C-130’s and C-17’s allows us to continually take the fight to enemy ground forces, because friendly forces get the supplies they need, when they need them.”

While airdrops directly support coalition forces, they also help Iraqi and Afghan civilians. Air Force airdrops and those from other coalition nations’ airlifters routinely resupply coalition forces by airdropping cargo such as food, water, fuel, ammunition, medical supplies and building materials. Cargo can be airdropped in a variety of methods, each tailored and planned for the specific area and mission specific requirements.

“The airdrop mission has been focused in Afghanistan, because the lack of infrastructure there has made it difficult to resupply overland,” said Major Purath, a Fairborn, Ohio, native. “As coalition forces have increased their presence at forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan, the demand for combat airdrop resupply has increased as well.”

The major said the Air Force’s ability to resupply its personnel can be frustrating for the enemy.

“It has to be frustrating for an enemy to know that we can choose the time and place that we resupply our forces on the ground,” said Major Purath, “particularly when the enemy must receive their supplies from overland sources in some of the most inaccessible real estate on the planet.”

Since 2004, combat airdrop operations have dropped nearly 19 million pounds of cargo and supplies within an average of 185 meters of the requested point of impact with a 98.5 percent recovery rate, according to the major.

Coincidently, this airdrop milestone comes at a time when the Air Force is observing the Berlin Airlift’s 60th anniversary.

Since 1948, Air Force air mobility forces have brought the supplies needed to troops on the ground and to local civilian populations.

Today’s airdrop mission in the CENTCOM AOR is a key part to ongoing combat operations. It provides needed logistics to military members and results in a more stable environment for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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