25th CAB closes out last mile with Chinook helicopters
Story and Photos by
Capt. Richard Barker
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — With its smaller frame and dual turboprop engines, the C-27J Spartan aircraft may not look like much.
However, to Soldiers on the ground, here, the C-27J is a reliable method of receiving mission-essential supplies delivered over impassible terrain within hours of making a request.
Since starting operations in August 2011, two C-27J aircraft have been tactically controlled by the 159th and 25th combat aviation brigades.
Combined, they have performed 67 airdrops and delivered more than 277 container delivery systems containing vital supplies such as food, water, blood and ammunition to Special Operations Forces located in the unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan.
The 25th CAB, 25th Infantry Division, makes this support possible as a result of its solid understanding of Soldiers’ needs and its tactical control of the C-27J aircraft, which are operated by the 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
“The C-27J was chosen to provide a simple solution to U.S. Army fixed-wing aircraft and to provide operational and cost relief from the CH-47 Chinooks,” said Air Force Capt. Steffen Landrum, 702nd EAS liaison officer to the 25th CAB.
Maj. Craig Jayson, executive officer, 3rd Battalion, 25th Avn. Regiment, 25th CAB, said with the C-27J relieving his unit’s Chinooks, the unit has the opportunity to fly more missions to forward operating bases that the C-27J does not have access to.
“We can focus on picking up personnel and equipment that are lower priority and fulfill requests that are normally canceled due to lack of resources,” Jayson said. “Overall, the C-27J increases our flexibility and ability to support more customers in a single day.”
An increase in C-27J missions also decreases the costs associated with CH-47 missions, as well.
“The hourly operational cost of a re-supply mission using the Chinook is more than $7,500 an hour for the CH-47D and $9,000 an hour for the CH-47F,” Jayson said.
Based off Landrum’s calculations, the U.S. Army has saved $30 million by conducting missions with the C-27J instead of the CH-47 Chinook. When it comes to relieving the CH-47 Chinook with fixed-wing assets, the C-27J seems to be the best choice over other fixed-wing options.
“The C-27J has all of the benefits of a fixed-wing aircraft, such as speed, altitude, payload capacity and range, yet also possesses the ability to conduct many mission sets similar to rotary winged cargo aircraft,” said Sgt. Maj. Ronald Graves, Operations sergeant major, 25th CAB.
Adding to the list of the C-27J’s benefits, Graves said the aircraft can operate in adverse weather and with limited visibility. Also the C-27J can land on a 2,400-foot dirt strip as opposed to the 3,000 feet a C-130 Hercules requires.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the C-27J currently offers the Army is the fact it is tactically controlled by Col. Frank Tate, commander, 25th CAB.
The tactical control gives him the flexibility to provide immediate support to Soldiers on the battlefield. The last mile can be closed quickly when the movement is planned through the 25th CAB commander.
“While the U.S. Air Force standard mission tasking process requires 96 hours of notice, the C-27J has been time on target in less than 24 hours while operating under Army tactical control,” Landrum said. “For the troops out in the field, that is the ultimate flexibility.”
Not only can the C-27J deliver supplies as fast as a C-130, the cost savings are impressive too.
“So far, the C-27J has saved more than $3.8 million when compared to a C-130,” Landrum said.
With the C-27J’s ability of rapid mission execution, from request to delivery, and its ability to move optimal amounts of mission critical supplies at a low operating cost, the C-27J provides a definite benefit to the Soldiers and their teams conducting critical operations across Afghanistan to ensure the fight is won.