The 352nd Special Operations Group (SOG) conducted Special Operations Group Logistics Exercise 2013 or LOGEX 13 at RAF Fairford from Monday 9th to Thursday 12th December 2013.
LOGEX 13 was a training event designed to ensure the group is able to practice and evaluate the ability to efficiently forward deploy their newest assets, the CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II. “RAF Fairford is a perfect location for us to test our ability to forward deploy our new CV-22s and MC-130Js.” said Col Christopher Ireland, 352nd SOG commander. ”These ‘new’ aircraft bring enhanced and fresh capabilities, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to test ourselves so close to home.”
During the exercise the 352nd SOG carried out a number of differing sorties, which were essentially on the same local lines as those flown out of RAF Mildenhall i.e. airdrop, low-level flight, tactical landings and aerial refuelling, and the unit deployed with approximately 130 personnel and six aircraft (3 x CV-22B, 3 x MC-130J) for the exercise. Whilst the 352 SOG was not prepared to comment on future operations they did confirm that RAF Fairford is a valuable site for training and may be utilised in the future. Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron Director of Operations, and exercise mission commander, said “Before we ever did anything with these new aircraft – other than local training – we sat down and took a long time to think about all of the skill sets and all of the equipment that we would need to go on the road. This exercise is a way to validate our efforts and identify those things before we look at venturing further from home.”
Whilst not illustrating any LOGEX 13 activity, the picture below illustrates an MC-130J Commando II waiting with engines running while U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron carry a simulated casualty during an evacuation exercise. The exercise tested Airmen on their ability to care for and transport wounded service members under tactical conditions similar to what could be encountered in a combat environment.
The 352nd Special Operations Group, based at RAF Mildenhall, England, is the only Air Force special operations unit in European Command and as such is the air component for special operations within the European command. Under the operational control of the commander for Special Operation Command Europe the 352nd is an essential part of the Air Force Special Operations Command, having more than 1,000 Air Force personnel assigned, as well as nearly 50 personnel attached/associated as members of Joint Special Operations Air Component-Europe and Detachment 2, 25th Intelligence Squadron.
The 352nd SOG unit plans and executes specialised and contingency operations using advanced aircraft, tactics and air refuelling techniques to transport and resupply military forces and is currently undergoing a process of re-equipment with the CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II aircraft. The unit has five squadrons and three different versions of MC-130 aircraft assigned, as well as CV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the first of which arrived in June 2013 for operation with the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS). The 7th SOS currently has five CV-22Bs assigned and will progressively increase to a total of ten Ospreys in the next few years. The squadron operates both the MC-130H Combat Talon II and CV-22B, executing night, adverse weather, long-range troop transport and resupply operations into potentially hazardous areas. The squadron also supports non-combatant evacuation, humanitarian relief and other operations. The Combat Talon II and Osprey are employed using a combination of terrain-following radar, high-precision avionics and sensors, and electronic countermeasures.
The 67th SOS operates the MC-130P Combat Shadow and the MC-130J Commando II to provide precise, reliable, flexible and responsive specialised air mobility. Utilising night vision goggles, the aircraft penetrate potentially hazardous areas to conduct single or multi-ship transport and resupply of military forces via airdrop or air/land operations and aerial refuelling of vertical lift assets. The squadron also supports information operations, humanitarian relief, medical evacuations and non-combatant evacuations. As with the 7th SOS, the 67th SOS is also undergoing a period of re-equipment with the MC-130J being brought on charge; the unit currently operates a total of three MC-130Js with a fourth example scheduled to arrive soon, with the unit complement building to reach ten aircraft on strength.
RAF Fairford is home to the USAF 420th Air Base Squadron, which is part of the 501st Combat Support Wing at RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire. The base is maintained in a ready, ‘warm status’ by a civilian workforce which is responsible for all daily tasks and contingency preparations. The main mission at RAF Fairford is to be ready to receive a large deployment of aircraft and personnel with 48 hours’ notice, both for real-world scenarios and for training.
Credit: GAR would like to thank SSgt R.Stephen Linch, USAF 352nd Special Operations Group Public Affairs for his assistance in the preparation of this article. Photographs as credited.