July 16, 2020 (by Asif Shamim) - The C-130 community rewrote history July 14, successfully piloting the largest formation flight ever of C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in support of a Joint Forcible Entry exercise over Dyess Air Force Base and Big Bend, Texas.
Multiple C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th AW line up for takeoff during a Joint Forcible Entry exercise at Dyess AFB on July 14, 2020. C-130J aircraft from the 317th AW and 19th AW from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, conducted the largest formation flight of C-130J aircraft ever with 33 aircraft and completed airdrops at Dyess AFB and Big Bend, Texas. [USAF photo by SSgt. David Owsianka]
In total, the "Herk Nation Stampede" featured a formation flight of 24 aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing based at Dyess AFB and nine aircraft from the 19th Airlift Wing based at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, besting the previous mark of 20 J-models set in 2013.
A B-1B Lancer from 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, joint terminal attack controllers from the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Hood, Texas and an Army helicopter from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood also participated in the exercise.
This training event validated Air Mobility Command's mission to compete, deter and win…anyplace, anytime by demonstrating the ability to seize an airfield within a highly contested enemy environment.
Geographically separated planners from both the 317th AW and 19th AW, designed a mission to have C-130J aircraft take off from their respective bases, combine mid-air into a larger formation and fly to specific airdrop locations to simulate the forced entry of U.S. Army paratroopers.
The B-1B was integrated with the exercise planning, and executed a close air support mission with JTAC directed dynamic targeting to clear out and protect the drop zone objective area prior to the arrival of the C-130Js.
"We are the only nation in the world that can do what we call joint forcible entry … dropping 3,000 paratroopers and all their equipment at a time and place of our choosing, regardless of the threat," said Col. Jeffery Menasco, 317th AW commander. "It's a pretty amazing feat and our nation should be proud of its American Airmen."
Moreover, the ability to launch almost every J-model assigned to Dyess and every available aircraft at Little Rock into the air on a single day relied heavily upon the efforts of both installation's maintenance units — with initial planning and scheduling beginning weeks beforehand. Prior to takeoff, each aircraft took approximately eight hours of maintenance prep-work to make sure it was ready to launch.
"To launch the largest formation in the history of the C-130J in a safe and effective manner is a demonstration of our aggressive exercise culture and our ability to get after our nation's priorities," said Col. John Schutte, 19th AW commander. "Our Airmen know they're making history here. This is an important moment, not only for Little Rock and Dyess, but for the entire C-130J community."
Showcasing the 4/12 initiative
In addition to demonstrating mobility air forces ability to perform large-force employment and tactics, the historic inter-fly also served as a testament to the relationship forged between the airlift wings via the 4/12 deployment initiative.
The 4/12 has been a two-year project with the 19th Airlift Wing and 317th Airlift Wing working together to align the two wings under a full squadron deployment schedule, instead of having a portion of each C-130 unit always out the door.
The coordinated effort ensures each squadron rotates deployments for four months followed by 12 months of dwell time. While one squadron is fulfilling their rotational deployment, the other three will be focused on sharpening readiness allowing more time to train.
This directly supports AMC's priority to recapitalize on existing capabilities to ensure delivery of strength and hope, now and in the future.
"This initiative enables us to focus on our Airmen, our families and, with operations such as the ‘Herk Nation Stampede,' what we call full spectrum readiness," Menasco said. "With this emphasis on readiness, we can launch the fleet at a moment's notice and show the world what we can do if we were to ever get into a great power conflict."
Thriving amidst COVID-19
The exercise also showcased that AMC's agile combat airlift fleet of C-130Js have maintained readiness during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, the 19th AW and 317th are driving innovation at the leading edge of operational excellence. This inter-fly validated that the C-130 enterprise can not only survive, but thrive in a COVID-19 contaminated environment, Schutte said.
"We're demonstrating the ability to conduct distributed planning across two wings, in two different states, and then integrate mid-air at a historic level … all while operating under the threat posed by COVID-19," Schutte said. "It's an awe-inspiring achievement and one showcasing that these capabilities can be brought to bear not just in a domestic environment, but could easily be brought to bear against any opportunistic aggressor."