The Strategic Airlift Capability’s Heavy Airlift Wing recently flew its first combined C-17 personnel and materiel airdrop in operational conditions, according to a May 6 release. The HAW, stationed at Pápa AB, Hungary, airdropped “parachute-assisted” cargo and personnel to two drop zones in Latvia and Poland on May 2-3. The missions were “carried out to support the ongoing expanded training activities of SAC nations’ armed forces and NATO alliance members in Poland and the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia,” states the release. On the May 2 mission, the C-17 loaded 12 container delivery system cargo bundles from Aviano AB, Italy, and dropped them at a training range in Latvia. On the May 3 mission, it picked up US and Polish paratroopers from Swidwin AB, Poland, and dropped them over the nearby Ziemsko drop zone. Ten NATO countries and two non-NATO countries make up the Strategic Airlift Capability, which pools “resources in order to acquire maximum airlift capability for many nations, in a restrictive budgetary environment,” according to a NATO support agency website. The Heavy Airlift Wing makes up the operational arm of the Strategic Airlift Capability.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.