The U.S. Air Forces in Europe Theater Security Cooperation Plan has taken interoperability to the next level by establishing a partnership between the 37th Airlift Squadron and the Ukrainian Air Force’s 25th Guards Air Transport Brigade.
Jose Gabilondo, USAFE A5IE chief, international relations Eurasia branch, defines interoperability as the ability of air forces from different countries to operate together in a seamless manner to achieve operational successes.
This is done by creating a common operational framework where everyone has the training and equipment to achieve mission success, he said.
The partnership between the 37th AS and Ukraine’s 25th GATB was established in September. The partnership includes a series of events to bring the air force units closer together and increase interoperability. The goal of the partnership is to develop a habitual relationship and to ultimately engage in joint exercises and improve the ability to operate together in coalition operations, Mr. Gabilondo said.
“As the relationship between the Ukrainian Air Force and USAFE increases, we are looking at various options for growing the air force-to-air force relationship, including adding interactions with Air Mobility Command units at some point in the future,” Mr. Gabilondo said.
Recently, the Ukrainian military conducted a paratrooper exchange at Ft. Bragg, N.C., that utilized the U.S. Air Force’s C-17s and C-130s from Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
In February, the 25th GATB sent a team to Ramstein, said Maj. James Schartz, 37th AS assistant director of operations and project officer for the sister unit partnership. The team had an opportunity to view mission planning, witness the execution of a two-ship C-130E formation airdrop mission and meet key leadership.
In mid-February, a Ramstein C-130 crew visited the 25th GATB at Melitopol Air Base, Ukraine.
“The best way to learn about a unit is to go visit one,” said Major Schartz.
The Ukrainian unit flies Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft, a cargo plane bigger than a C-141 and smaller than a C-17, he said. During the visit, Ramstein’s C-130 crew was briefed on the history and mission of their sister unit and toured maintenance, air traffic control facilities and the unit’s aircraft.
One of the biggest differences Major Schartz noticed was in 25th GATB’s cargo operation. They use a crane and winch system to load and unload cargo, he said. Since the crane and winch are installed on each IL-76, they are loading equipment with them wherever they fly.
In contrast, the U.S. Air Force uses forklifts and K-loaders for cargo loading and offloading, which has its limits in that some locations may not have the equipment and some planes may not have the ability or space to carry the equipment with them, Major Schartz said.
“The similarities and differences are what make this partnership educational,” said Major Schartz. “We are excited about the relationship we have built and look forward to the future.”