More than 50 flights per day: why is the USAF deploying its strategic transport capabilities over Europe?

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The arrival of American Patriot and THAAD anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in the Middle East involves a major deployment of strategic transport aircraft. Since the end of October, the US Air Force has launched a veritable air bridge between America and the Middle East, with sometimes more than 50 daily flights of C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III .

Significant deployment of C-5M and C-17A

Following the numerous missile and drone attacks on American bases in the Middle East, the Pentagon notably announced the deployment of battalions of MIM-104 Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems and a THAAD anti-ballistic missile battery. , in addition to other land, naval and air assets. The precise location of the units was not revealed by the Department of Defense (DoD) but this movement of resources required the establishment of a real air bridge between the United States and the Middle East. At the center of this airlift, the European continent and in particular the American air base of Ramstein (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany), where two types of aircraft meet for a brief maintenance, crew change and above all, refueling of the tanks :

  • C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft
  • C-5M Super Galaxy strategic transport aircraft

In total, an average of 50 of these planes are visible daily, flying back and forth between the Middle East and the American continent. This impressive number can be explained by the equally large number of materials to be moved:

  • A standard Patriot battalion includes four batteries, each grouping eight launchers.
  • A standard THAAD battery includes six launchers.

Lots of large vehicles

However, despite the immensity of the two aircraft models described above, several aircraft are needed to deploy just the launchers! For example, eight Globemasters or four Super Galaxy are needed to deploy the launchers… from a single Patriot battery. To which must be added the firing post, the AN/MPQ-53 (Patriot PAC-2) or AN/MPQ-65 (Patriot PAC-3) radars, the vehicles used to transport the additional missiles, the protection force , etc. For THAAD, the task is more imposing because the AN/TPY-2 radar requires the mobilization of several strategic transport aircraft. Unlike the AN/MPQ-53 and AN/MPQ-65 of the Patriot, the THAAD AN/TPY-2 is a true system of systems, composed of several semi-trailers:

  • an electronic unit (12 meters long)
  • a 1.1 MW primary generator
  • an antenna cooling unit (12 meters in length, mass of 28 tonnes)
  • the antenna (on a trailer 12.8 meters long, mass of 34 tonnes)
  • a control center (and its dedicated generator).
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