Thursday, March 17, 2011

C-17A's commence Japan Quake - Tsunami relief flights

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Dunn conducts a pre-flight maintenance inspection before departing on a humanitarian mission to Japan at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The plane will provide support for Japan relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen U.S. Air Force)

Following a long history of disaster relief missions, Boeing C-17 cargo jets from across the globe are descending on Japan to aid in the aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake that killed thousands.

Since the March 11 quake, the United States, Australia and United Kingdom have deployed C-17s loaded with food, water, medical gear, sniffer dogs, search crews, doctors and radiation-neutralizing equipment.

The first C-17 mission lifted off from Los Angeles just hours after the disaster with a search-and-rescue team on a direct flight to quake-stricken northern Japan, using a flying tanker to refuel mid-air during the trip over the Pacific Ocean, Air Force officials said.

Another mission left March 13 from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Both jets landed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, one of the hardest-hit regions.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott West, who departed March 12 from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, said at least 25 airmen were headed to Yokota Air Base with supplies that included several large generators for use in disaster zones without electricity.

"The (Japanese) are resilient and capable," West said in a statement released by the Air Force. "But we'll be there so long as our allies ask us to."

On March 14, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced one of his nation's fleet of four C-17s was en route to Japan loaded with fresh water and an urban search-and-rescue team with dogs.

"In the last 24 hours (the Japanese Government) accepted our offer of assistance for the C-17 aircraft which is on the ground in Japan," Rudd told Australian press. "It has itself (Monday) flown two sorties for the Japanese government ... and we've been transporting all sorts of land vehicles for the Japanese as well as large supplies of fresh water."
Rudd said the search-and-rescue team was "on the ground in one of the most devastated towns called Minamisanriku."

The C-17 has played a growing role in global disaster relief operations in recent years, bringing rapid aid to such catastrophes as the Haiti quake, Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Pakistan floods and the recent temblor in New Zealand.

Designed to take off and land on short, unpaved runways and run on bio-fuel derived from animal fat, the hulking jet can carry cars, trucks, tanks, a fully equipped field hospital, flying medical emergency room or up to 102 people.

First built in 1993, more than 220 C-17s have been built for the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Qatar and a NATO-led force based in Hungary.

The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and India have also ordered C-17s, which are built at California's last fixed-wing aircraft production plant next to Long Beach Airport.

The Japanese temblor, which is being referred to as the Great Earthquake, struck on the afternoon of March 11 off the coast of northern Japan, triggering a huge tsunami, damaging four nuclear power plants and wrecking a major seaport in the city of Sendai.

In addition to the C-17s, dozens of nations are sending medical personnel, cash, nuclear specialists, tents, food, water and other needed supplies.

The U.S. has deployed nine Navy ships to help in the relief effort and work with British and Japanese engineers and nuclear physicists at the power plants, where radiation leaks have been detected.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)


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