C-130 JATO Takeoff Antarctica
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Uploaded on Sep 27, 2011
Courtesy: New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing
The 109th Airlift Wing, the only unit in the United States military equipped with ski landing gear, has provided airlift support for the National Science Foundation's South Pole research since 1988. Since 1999 the unit has been the sole provided of this type of airlift to the National Science Foundation and United States Antarctic research efforts.
By Lt. Col. Edward Vaughan
Operation DEEP FREZE (ODF) has its roots in the storied history of the US Navy's explorations in Antarctica. As far back as 1839, Captain Charles Wilkes led the first U.S. Naval Expedition into Antarctic Waters. In 1929, Admiral Richard E. Byrd established naval outposts on the Antarctic coast and began conducting photographic and geologic mapping operations around the continent on snowshoe, dog-sled, snow mobile, and airplane.
On November 28, 1929, Byrd and his crew made their historic first flight over the South Pole. After several more expeditions to Antarctica, in 1946, Byrd organized the U.S Navy's Operation Highjump, which put more than 4,000 people and numerous ships and other craft into the area of the Ross Sea. In 1948, Commander Finn Ronne led an expedition that photographed over 450,000 square miles of the continent by air.
The International Geophysical Year 1957--58, or IGY, as it was known, marked a turning point in Antarctic exploration. With the IGY, science would become the primary focus of the U.S. presence in Antarctica. Preparing for the IGY, the U.S. Navy launched Operation Deep Freeze 1 in 1955-56 to prepare logistics and basing support in advance of the scientific work. During the IGY, which lasted 18 months, forty nations collaborated to advance world knowledge in myriad scientific disciplines. This international cooperation eventually led to the creation of the Antarctic Treaty.
For the next forty-plus years, the U.S. Navy provided support and logistics for scientific work in the world's coldest, driest, and highest continent. Naval Support Force Antarctica and Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VX-6, later VXE-6) provided the military's primary support to US Antarctic Program throughout the period. Among the many types of aircraft flown in Antarctica, VXE-6 operated various models of LC-130 heavy-lift ski-planes since 1961. VXE-6 operated LC-130s in Antarctica until the 1998-99 season, when the Navy decommissioned the unit and passed the support mission officially to the US Air Force.
Beginning in 1988, the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, flying its own LC-130 aircraft, began augmenting the Navy's Antarctic support program. The 109th acquired its first fleet of LC-130 aircraft, known as the C-130D at the time, in 1975, with a primary mission of resupplying the Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar sites along the northern Arctic tier. As DEW line sites gave way to new technology, the 109th Airlift Wing shifted its ski-operations focus from north to south, and in the 1998-99 season became the only flying unit in the world to fly the ski-equipped LC-130. The 109th still operates LC-130s in both the north and south polar regions, positioning them as the only pole-to-pole unit in the Air Force.
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