First Direct Arctic Overflight To Afghanistan
Fourteen mobility Airmen teamed together to fly a C-5M Super
Galaxy on a direct, non-stop mission from Dover Air Force Base,
Del., to Bagram, Afghanistan, June 5 and 6, 2011 -- and they called
this a 'shortcut.' The flight was reportedly the first time a US
Air Force plane flew this northern route from the U.S., over Canada
and into the Arctic Circle, then back down through Russian and
Kazakhstan airspace to Afghanistan.
"Everyone involved with this mission worked very hard to make it
happen," said Lt. Col. Thomas Loper, the pilot and aircraft
commander for the mission. "We're also very proud to be a part of
the historic mission." US Transportation Command and Air Mobility
Command officials at Scott AFB, Ill., said the mission was a
"proof-of-concept" flight that will help establish future
sustainment operations in Afghanistan.
"Our mission is to provide the right effects, to the right
place, at the right time through global reach, said Gen. Raymond E.
Johns Jr., AMC commander. "This historic proof-of-concept flight is
the embodiment of that mission. It provides a valuable new option
that allows us to be effective to those we serve." AMC's 618 Tanker
Airlift Control Center planners at Scott AFB tasked and built the
mission plans for the effort. It's part of TACC's continuing effort
to support and control airlift and air refueling missions around
"This mission validates all the hard work TACC planners do every
day," said Lt. Col. Matthew Ahern, a C-5 pilot with Dover AFB's 9th
Airlift Squadron. Colonel Ahern was also a member of the aircrew
for the mission.
AMC officials said the flight was a culmination of months of
diplomatic efforts and operational planning, and further
illustrates the military's commitment to finding innovative new
ways to operate with increasingly constrained resources. Maj. John
Rozsnyai, a planner in USTRANSCOM operations at Scott AFB, said his
command worked with the U.S. State Department, regional combatant
commands, AMC, TACC and numerous other agencies to get this
historic mission under way.
"This partnership was especially important in coordinating
transit agreements with Russia and Kazakhstan," Major Rozsnyai
said, "While civilian airlines have been using the airspace, this
was the first time an AMC plane took this direct delivery
To make the entire 15-plus hour flight to Afghanistan, the C-5M
was refueled by a KC-135R Stratotanker from the New Hampshire Air
National Guard 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard
Base. The refueling took place over northern Canada.
"It's cool to be a part of a mission like this," said Master
Sgt. Sam Blackwell, an in-flight refueling craftsman from the 157th
ARW, who refueled the C-5M to full capacity.
USTRANSCOM planners said this flight is just the beginning of
understanding new ways to strengthen the northern corridor. "There
will most likely be other flights that will originate from the
western U.S. and won't require the use of tankers," Major Rozsnyai
"This route used by the C-5M may also be useful for swap-outs of
deployed tankers and crews and for redeploying troops. The benefit
might also allow for quicker trips saving days at home for
deploying Airmen as well as requiring less stops for aircraft."
The aircrew for the mission combined active-duty and Reserve
Airmen. [ANN Salutes Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, Air Mobility
Command Public Affairs for the story.]