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Army, Air Force train for short takeoff, landing

  • Published
  • By Spc. Sarah K. Anwar
  • 304th Public Affairs Detachement
Airmen from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron out of Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, and Soldiers from the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, secured the Hohenfels Training Area’s short takeoff and landing strip (STOL) April 13, as part of their certification at Saber Junction 16.

The airfield team from the 321st STS practiced seizing the STOL and assessed it for suitability by looking for obstacles and barriers that would be in the way of aircraft, explained Master Sgt. Christopher B. Sones, assigned to the 321st STS and the airfield team leader for the crew accessing the STOL. They also conducted fast-paced landing and takeoff maneuvers for several hours, refining their timing, efficiency and communication.

Sones also said Hohenfels Training Area’s STOL differs from other military landing strips.

"It's unique because it's right at 3,000 feet, which is our bare minimum for C-130s," Sones said. "The composition is something we call "rhino-slide;" it's a dirt aggregate kind of concrete mix."

Sones added that even the concrete mix is still tough enough for aircraft to land.

Saber Junction 16, which lasts from March 31-April 24, is a multinational exercise for U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade, in which they’re evaluated on the readiness of their combat units to conduct unified land operations and promote interoperability. The STOL supports this effort because is it the only semi-prepared, dirt landing zone in Germany, distinguishing it from other landing zones.

Sones says it is essential for his team be able to work in joint operations and share best practices, just as they are doing with the 173rd AB.

C-130s usually land on an average of a 4,600 foot strip. The STOL is 3,600 feet, but only 3,000 feet are usable for takeoff and landing due to the requirement for 300 unused feet to be on either end of a strip for safety.