Flight test personnel at Edwards AFB, Calif., are following a four-phase test program to “write the book” for landing the new C-17 airlifter on dirt runways—in any shape or consistency, states Air Force journalist TSgt. Eric Grill. The testers have completed Phase 1, using Ft. Hunter Liggett, Calif., and plan to move into Phase 2 on Dec. 4. At Hunter Liggett, C-17s landed on a dry, ungroomed runway, simulating rapid deployment operations. Then testers wet the runway, simulating a thunderstorm, to test the aircraft’s braking action. Lt. Col. Bob Poremski, C-17 Integrated Test Force director, explained that original testing on the C-17 certified it for only a few of the types of surfaces the aircraft might encounter. The ITF work will expand those surfaces deemed OK for operations, opening up the options for direct delivery of forces and cargo to a battlefield. Phase 2 takes place at Edwards, while 3 and 4 are to be held at Ft. Chafee, Ark., and Ft. McCoy, Wis. Testers expect to complete all four phases by November 2007.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.