Monday, July 24, 2006

Operation Nickel Grass

There is reduced lighting in the cockpit of the massive C-5 Galaxy transport. The tiny US outpost of Lajes slips further behind every minute as the giant plane flies eastward over the Atlantic. The pilots take turns flying their aircraft, conversation is hushed as the thrust of all four engines vibrates through the airframe. It is the navigator who is truly sweating things as Gibraltar approaches. Because of delicate political problems there can be no navigation errors that would cause the mission to overfly Spain. So with flight computer out he twirls out computations, the relevant Jepsen charts are open, and with all other navigation aids he carefully plots a course that will take their mission straight through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Med where Sixth Fleet has posted picket ships to help guide them, there are even carrier battle groups stationed along the route to provide fighter protection in case some Arab air force decides to try an intercept.

What is so important about this plane and its cargo? Their cargo of 113,000lbs  is destined for Lod Airport just outside Tel Aviv Israel. 55 aircraft maintainers and communications personnel sit above the wing in the passenger compartment facing backwards. This is the lead aircraft of the the airlift bridge that is ferrying needed supplies to the combat forces of Israel. In command is Col. Strobaugh from 21st AF, McGuire AFB. His mission once he lands at Lod will be to set up secure communications to reach back to Scott AFB, Dover AFB, McGuire AFB, and that tiny outpost slipping further behind them Lajes and once that task is done the truly hard task will begin. Col. Strobaugh will then be coordinating with USAFE, DoD, Israeli Defense Forces, and even Israeli citizens to offload what supplies are already in the pipeline and where those critical supplies need to be sent in Israel's two front war.

Sound like something ripped from today's headlines as the DoD agrees to sell Israel $210 million in JP-8 jet fuel along with a large number of smart weapons doesn't it? It actually occurred almost 33 years ago when Israel was literally fighting for her life in the Yom Kippur War. After deciding Israel could handle anything followed by vacillation as Nixon tried to get the Soviets to help him stop the war, the Nixon Administration gave the go ahead to resupply Israel. From all over the United States and Europe material would flow. In the United States the equipment and munitions were routed through Dover and McGuire before passing through Lajes. The European supply runs would have to route through Lajes before flying to Lod to avoid political repercussions from various European countries. Whole jet fighter tail sections would be in the cargo to repair IAF fighters damaged by all the Soviet supplied SAM missiles. Pallets of 105mm and 155mm artillery ammo would flow to keep the artillery batteries supplied. So too would smart weapons like AGM-65 Maverick missiles be airlifted to Israel so that the IAF would use them to kill Arab tanks. Even four tanks would be ferried by C-5 before hostilities ceased. Another 25 tanks would be airlifted in by the time Operation Nickel Grass was shut down 32 days after it had started with Col. Strobaugh's C-5 landing at Lod.

I will end this post with a quote from Prime Minister Golda Meir said three weeks after the Yom Kippur War ended.

"For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the material that meant life to our people."


Sources, what good story would be complete without sources?
Aerospace Power Journal -Spring 1989. Operation Nickel Grass Airlift in Support of National Policy. Capt. Chris J. Krisinger, USAF.
The Airlift That Saved Israel. Reader's Digest - July, 1974. Charles J.V. Murphy. pg 86-90.


Mike's America said...

Anna: You reminded me of the Argument Clinic bit with John Cleese. I put the the video up at Mike's America.

C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

I have a great post about a wounded Vet and a C-5 pilot who met up after they came back to the states. Quite inspiring.

Anna said...

CR Mountjoy, that is truly an awesome story. Thanks for sharing the link.

Argument Clinic? Oh thought you wanted abuse. Dreadfully sorry about that... Oh gee, if the reality based progressives designed a high rise apartment building, why does the skit of the model building bursting into flames springs to mind?

Mike's America said...

Oh yeah... the guy who designed a slaughterhouse instead of apartments. Sounds like liberal social planning all right.

Anna said...

A real abbotoir it was. Live organ donations? Dinsdale?