October 5, 2016 (by SrA Justine Rho) - Pre-flight briefs, heavy cargo loads, drop zone statistics, personnel guidance, aircraft and equipment inspections – a few of the many crucial steps it took Airmen from the 352nd Special Operations Wing to execute a Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System drop September 27, 2016.
Two USAF MC-130J Commando IIs perform MCADS drops over the Little Belt Strait in Denmark on September 27, 2016. After the Rigid inflatable Boats were deployed, U.S. Navy SEALs followed to set up the equipment. Finally, a third aircraft off loaded USAF and Danish air commandos at the drop zone. [USAF photo by Sr Justine Rho]
As part of the combined, joint-force exercise Night Hawk, these Airmen worked alongside Danish air commandos and a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft unit to perform two MCADS drops, bundle deployments and air commando jumps over Little Belt Strait in Denmark.
"A lot of work goes into a drop like this, but we routinely work with partner nations in order to hone our ability to work together in an operational environment and build on the relationships we have developed over years," said Maj. Andrew Pickering, a 352nd SOW MC-130J Commando II pilot and mission commander.
Mission planning, which began weeks prior, led up to successful cargo loads on Stuttgart Air Base, Germany. Loadmasters and crew chiefs of an MC-130J Commando II, assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron, worked with Navy crewmen to load two rigid inflatable boats and a bundle onto the aircraft. The RIBs were strategically loaded, inspected and re-inspected in preparation for the MCADS drop the following day.
“The MCADS requires a different type of coordination between the crew and users as far as how it’s executed compared to a standard heavy equipment drop,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jones, a 67th SOS loadmaster.
Tech. Sgt. Adam Phelan, a 752nd Special Operations Group MC-130J Commando II evaluator loadmaster, said the MCADS mission poses unique challenges.
“It’s challenging because it’s a combination airdrop (that includes) heavy equipment in conjunction with personnel, utilizing a 20,000 pound boat that fills the cargo compartment,” said Phelan. “The MCADS is a specialized airdrop load, which requires experienced and trained loadmasters to ‘be on their game’ to deploy, load, rig, and execute the mission set. It is a very rewarding airdrop to accomplish.”
Phelan added the MCADS increases special operation forces capabilities for multiple mission sets.
“Specifically it allows aerial delivery of naval special operation forces (SOF) insertion and extraction for underway visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), maritime interdiction, and support for direct action missions among other capabilities,” he said. “The 752nd SOG is ready to execute the MCADS mission in a joint environment to deliver combat power anywhere it is required, and trains its aircrews to a high standard in order to deliver results; anytime, anyplace.”
U.S. Navy Seals followed the MCADS and bundle drop to setup the equipment post in the water. After the RIBs are operational, Danish air commandos performed a static line drop followed by military free-fall from Air Force Air Commandos.
Pickering said, "This exercise allowed our Airmen and their Danish counterparts to practice drops with the MCADS in a controlled environment to enhance our ability to work together and ensure we are successful in a real-world scenario. This type of training is invaluable and only adds to our ability to provide combat air power in a variety of locations and scenarios."