Tuesday, March 15, 2011

C-17s take off on Japan relief

Following a long history of disaster relief missions, Boeing C-17 cargo jets from across the globe are descending on Japan to aid in the aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake that killed thousands.

Since the March 11 quake, the United States, Australia and United Kingdom have deployed C-17s loaded with food, water, medical gear, sniffer dogs, search crews, doctors and radiation-neutralizing equipment.

The first C-17 mission lifted off from Los Angeles just hours after the disaster with a search-and-rescue team on a direct flight to quake-stricken northern Japan, using a flying tanker to refuel mid-air during the trip over the Pacific Ocean, Air Force officials said.

Another mission left March 13 from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Both jets landed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, one of the hardest-hit regions.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott West, who departed March 12 from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, said at least 25 airmen were headed to Yokota Air Base with supplies that included several large generators for use in disaster zones without electricity.

"The (Japanese) are resilient and capable," West said in a statement released by the Air Force. "But we'll be there so long as our allies ask us to."

On March 14, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced one of his nation's fleet of four C-17s was en route to Japan loaded with fresh water and an urban search-and-rescue team with dogs.

"In the last 24 hours (the Japanese Government) accepted our offer of assistance for the C-17 aircraft which is on the ground in Japan," Rudd told Australian press. "It has itself (Monday) flown two sorties for the Japanese government ... and we've been transporting all sorts of land vehicles for the Japanese as well as large supplies of fresh water."

Rudd said the search-and-rescue team was "on the ground in one of the most devastated towns called Minamisanriku."

The C-17 has played a growing role in global disaster relief operations in recent years, bringing rapid aid to such catastrophes as the Haiti quake, Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Pakistan floods and the recent temblor in New Zealand.

Designed to take off and land on short, unpaved runways and run on bio-fuel derived from animal fat, the hulking jet can carry cars, trucks, tanks, a fully equipped field hospital, flying medical emergency room or up to 102 people.

First built in 1993, more than 220 C-17s have been built for the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Qatar and a NATO-led force based in Hungary.

The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and India have also ordered C-17s, which are built at California's last fixed-wing aircraft production plant next to Long Beach Airport.

The Japanese temblor, which is being referred to as the Great Earthquake, struck on the afternoon of March 11 off the coast of northern Japan, triggering a huge tsunami, damaging four nuclear power plants and wrecking a major seaport in the city of Sendai.

In addition to the C-17s, dozens of nations are sending medical personnel, cash, nuclear specialists, tents, food, water and other needed supplies.

The U.S. has deployed nine Navy ships to help in the relief effort and work with British and Japanese engineers and nuclear physicists at the power plants, where radiation leaks have been detected.

Facts about Boeing's C-17

Built in Long Beach, the C-17 is one of the world's largest and most diverse cargo jets, capable of landing and taking off on unpaved runways as short as 3,500 feet long and 90feet wide.

In addition to hauling supplies like trucks, food pallets, search-and-rescue teams and medical gear, the C-17 can be converted into a flying medical emergency room with 12 patient kits.

Passenger capacity: 102

Length: 174 feet; 169-foot wingspan

Crew: Pilot, co-pilot and loadmaster

Payload (maximum): 170,900 pounds

Range: 2,400 nautical miles, with midair refueling capabilities

Cruising altitude: 28,000 feet

Cruising speed: 450 knots

Power: Four Pratt and Whitney jet engines capable of 40,440 pounds of thrust

Price: $250 million (average)

Loading system: Cargo is loaded through a rear door accommodating troops, military vehicles, palletized cargo or rapid-deployment field hospital.

(Kristopher Hanson - Press Telegram)


JetAviator7 said...

This aircraft has provided much lift for the USAF for many years and is a great addition to the fleet.

Although quite old, it remains the backbone of lift capabilities for the Air Force.


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