German P-3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Reinforce EU-led Operation ATALANTA


Next week, a P-3C maritime patrol aircraft from the Naval Air Wing 3 “Graf Zeppelin”, based in Nordholz, Germany, will reinforce the EU-led Operation ATALANTA, countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa. Therefore and in advance, the required material for maintaining the aircraft needs to be brought to Djibouti by air cargo.

Djibouti. Soldiers of the German liaison and support group are standing at the airfield, waiting for the arrival of the cargo plane, an Antonow AN-124 from Nordholz. The cargo: hydraulic lifts, oxygen bottles, bench stands, spare engines and much more. A total of 45 tonnes of ground support equipment and spare parts.

Shortly before landing, the Officer responsible for the unloading gives a safety brief. Working on an airfield with heavy machinery, safety rather than speed is all that matters.

The “Space Shuttle” is arriving with booming engines

Soldiers are looking into the dark sky. “Here she comes,” says one pointing to navigation lights coming closer. The landing itself could not be seen due to the darkness. Only the rumble of the reverse thrust could be heard. A short time later, the giant colossus rolls with roaring engines to its parking position. “She almost looks like the Space Shuttle,” joked one. The soldiers are impressed by the sheer size of the aircraft.

Slowly the nose cone lifts up and the huge cargo space of 36.50 meters length, 6.40 meters width and 4.40 meters height is visible. With a deafening shriek, the whole landing gear is lowered and the heavy cargo loading ramps are extended. The discharge can begin.

After four hours, everything is unloaded

Immediately the soldiers start working. Everyone knows what to do and all work as a team. Little by little, everything is taken out of the “belly” of the AN-124. The Russian “Loadmaster” aboard the Antonow gives hand signals to Corporal Patrick S. who is operating the forklift. “Because of the noise we give us hand signals,” he says.
He slowly moves the forks under the pallet. With one pull on the lever he lifts the cargo up and drives it out of the plane. Outside the next forklift is waiting to bring the cargo to the truck.

After four hours, the “belly” is empty and all materials are taken to a hanger. The Supply Senior Chief from Nordholz has monitored the offload of the supplies. “Tomorrow we will check everything and then will place all the equipment to its final destination,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer John B. Next weekend the rest of the soldiers and the P-3C maritime patrol aircraft itself will arrive from Germany. Until then, the ground crew roll up their sleeves to complete all the preparations.

Source: eunavfor, September 22, 2011;