Base tests cargo decontamination

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Toni Tones
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
After shutting down the engines following a two-and-a-half-hour flight, the C-130 Hercules crew opened the hatch to offload the cargo and passengers here.

Kaboom! The base had just been hit by a simulated scud-missile attack, possibly contaminating the passengers and cargo that just arrived.

Airmen from the 731st Air Mobility Squadron here and the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan, faced this scenario Feb. 6 during the testing of the Air Mobility Command offload/exchange zone concept of operations. This operating procedure, one of four being tested by the restoration of operations Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, focuses on decontaminating passengers, cargo and aircraft.

If an attack occurs, the aircrew's primary role is to close the aircraft to prevent any contamination from getting inside. They, along with any passengers on board, would don their chemical warfare defense ensemble and prepare to process through a decontamination center once they exit the aircraft. The cargo is covered in plastic on the aircraft and later removed for cleaning.

"The current belief is flying a contaminated aircraft for two hours removes any residue of chemical agent from the plane, keeping it serviceable and operational," said Lt. Col. John Ahern, RestOps manager. "AMC will test this concept on a C-141 (Starlifter) in the (continental United States) sometime this summer."

There is no current process for decontaminating an aircraft, added Ted McGovern, leader AMC's RestOps demonstration. "You run the risk of corroding the wires and other hardware on the aircraft if a solution is applied."

Also part of the AMC procedure is the concept of a transload base, which is a clean base outside the contaminated area where passengers and cargo can land, according to McGovern.

"If a base is contaminated, the Air Force posture is to keep its clean assets away from that area, and the transload base is the optimum solution," he said.