‘Raiders’ practice evasive maneuvers

21 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

  Aircrews from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Marine Aircraft Group 11 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, practiced low-level threat reaction in the Arizona desert training ranges of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Jan. 21.

The “Raiders” spent a couple of hours piloting a KC-130J away from a hidden simulated enemy threat.

“Marines on the ground manned the simulated gun and missile systems and locked their radar onto us,” said 1st. Lt. Joel. D. Dunivant, a pilot with the squadron. “We tried to break their lock by getting away and not being a slow-moving target.”

The pilots maneuvered and banked the massive KC-130J, often turning the aircraft in sharp angles and pitches. However, the aircrew had a few more options to keep themselves safe during contact with enemy radar.

“The aircraft can carry hundreds of individual chaff or flare pods contained in more than a dozen buckets throughout the KC-130J,” said Cpl. Michael R. Knudsen, an ordnance technician with the squadron.

Chaff consists of countless metallic fibers that are fired into the air to create a cloudy image on enemy radar, mask the true location of the aircraft and provide a chance for the crew to escape and separate from the metallic cloud.

Pilots can also deploy flares from canisters, sending balls of fire with a hotter heat signature than the plane. This provides a decoy for incoming heat seeking missiles. The pilots flew the aircraft carrying 12 buckets of chaff, maneuvering at altitudes of 300 ft.

While pilots worked to steer the aircraft away from radar, loadmasters watched for additional threats.

“We sit in observer windows in the back of the aircraft, with a remote dispenser switch in one hand, ready to hear the call over the radio, break right, left and so forth,” said Cpl. Christopher R. Weins, a Raiders loadmaster. “When we hear pilots say the enemy has a lock on us we communicate with our pilots, deploy the chaff or flares.”

For Maj. David S. Peterson, the squadron executive officer and low altitude tactics instructor, this training demonstrates the advances in technology of the KC-130J’s over the older aircraft they replaced.

“In 2003 during the push to Baghdad, we were flying the legacy KC-130F and R models, and most of those didn’t have missile or radar warnings systems with chaff and flares,” said Peterson. “These new aircraft have advanced detection and defensive systems that give aircrews much greater situational awareness and survivability.”

As the squadron sends detachments in support of the Global War on Terror, the aircrews can use this training to keep the enemy second guessing their anti-aircraft fire. 

“This training allows the aircrews to explore the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft,” said Peterson.  “We develop the crew’s ability to operate as an integrated, crew-served weapon system, which enables us to stay one step ahead of the enemy.”