Travis officials conduct mass launch
By SOF Editor on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 11:29am
Members of the 60th and 349th Air Mobility wings conducted the base's first mass launch of nine aircraft Dec. 21 at Travis Air Force Base. Base officials said the total force launch effort was an opportunity for operations, maintenance and support personnel to train together on a larger scale than normal. Travis AFB Airmen routinely launch three-ship KC-10 Extender formations, but this was the first time they launched three major weapon systems in rapid succession. Although not part of the nine-ship package, base officials said to make the event even more symbolic of the airpower that Travis AFB members generate on a daily basis, a Navy E-6B Mercury aircraft, also stationed at Travis AFB, led the charge. This was followed by nine 60th and 349th AMW aircraft including six KC-10s, two C-17 Globemaster IIIs, a C-5 Galaxy, and a transient Air Force Reserve Command KC-135 Stratotanker from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., completed the push. In less than 15 minutes, Travis AFB Airmen launched 11 aircraft with a gross weight exceeding 4.6 million pounds. "Once airborne, the nine Travis-assigned aircraft separated to accomplish normal tactical and air-refueling activities," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Cooper, the 60th Operations Support Squadron commander. Dubbed Operation Team Effort, the mass launch was a huge success, according to base officials. "The launch was the equivalent of the world's third largest tanker fleet, behind Russia and the United Kingdom, going airborne at the same time," said Lt. Col. Brian Lindsey, the 60th AMW director of staff. "In addition to that, the launch provided more airlift capability than 25 percent of the world's air forces." "From the ops side, we have never launched this many aircraft at once, and it has been more than 10 years since we launched a six-ship formation of KC-10s," said Col. Anthony Butters, the 60th Operations Group commander. "More than 300 currency/training events were accomplished by crewmembers, along with flight evaluations." The mission was an opportunity for many younger Airmen to receive valuable training. "We were able to expose the Airmen who make the flights possible, maintainers, air traffic controllers, aircrew flight equipment, to what happens in the air during takeoff, air refueling, approaches, etc., and (help them) understand what flight crews experience so they can do their jobs even better," Colonel Butters said. "Some of the older crewmembers have flown in this size of a formation, but the contingencies we are supporting now don't require this type of formation. "None of our younger crewmembers have seen or flown in a six-ship or larger formation," the colonel added. "My goal was to expose these younger crewmembers to this in a controlled training environment, with experienced crewmembers on board, so if they're called upon to perform it in the future, it won't be the first time they have seen it." Despite some cloudy weather and a little rain, the mission was a tremendous success, said Col. Carol Johnson, the 60th Maintenance Group commander. "The MXG relied upon all available (Air Force specialty codes) to carry out a focused production team maintenance plan that enabled nine aircraft to get airborne on time and then land 100 percent mission effective," Colonel Johnson said. "The mission was more successful than we could have hoped. Getting three diverse weapons systems with nine aircraft airborne in an 11-minute window is a Herculean effort by all personnel involved. "The amazing part was even with extremely low ceilings and visibility, in the rain, maintainers were able to get the aircraft ready to fly and the aircrews executed the mission flawlessly in extremely challenging conditions," the colonel added. "We obviously hoped for a cloudless, sunny day, but we proved we can execute the mission regardless of what the weather is. It was definitely a display of airpower that only Travis (Airmen) can organically perform." "This launch was indicative of the massive mobility mission Travis (Airmen) execute every day," said Col. James Vechery, the 60th AMW commander. "It was a joint, total force effort expertly executed by the wonderful Airmen of Team Travis ... now that's airpower!"