AFGHANISTAN: First U.S. Airlift Via Arctic Circle

June 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm Leave a comment

Up and Over

U.S. Air Force photo by Jason Minto

While maritime interests await the melting Arctic sea ice to open up a Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the U.S. Air Force is taking a more direct route – over the Arctic Circle.

A C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane flew directly from Dover Air Force Base (AFB) in Delaware to Baghram Airfield in Afghanistan earlier this month by way of the Arctic.

It was the first direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from the United States to Afghanistan. According to U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command, the flight was a “proof of concept” mission to help establish future sustainment operations in Afghanistan.

The upgraded C-5M, with pilots from the Air Force Reserve’s 709th Airlift Squadron at Dover AFB, flew over Canada and the Arctic Circle, then back down through Russia and Kazakhstan to Baghram. In order to make the 15-hour flight (June 5-6), the Super Galaxy was refueled by a KC-135R Stratotanker from the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base. The U.S. and Russia have a 2009 agreement allowing the overflight through Russian airspace.

A few days later (June 21-22), an Air Force KC-135 air refueling tanker also crossed Arctic air space from Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The new routes, if accepted, are expected to cut flying time and cargo costs between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

That could make a difference in the future if the rocky U.S.-Pakistan relationship deteriorates further. Most of the supplies shipped from the U.S. to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan come in by boat to Pakistan and are then transported by truck along dangerous routes into the Afghanistan.

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Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Arctic, National Security and Defense, Pakistan, Skills and Training, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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