No assistance needed: C-130Js airlift ops in black-out training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tristan Truesdell
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Yokota aircrew and their respective C-130J Super Hercules aircraft exercised airlift operations in black-out conditions through Airfield Marking Pattern-4 (AMP-4) training at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Dec. 13, 2023.

A standard flightline consists of surrounding lights to illuminate the airfield as well as airfield markers–which are used to guide pilots at night or in other low-visibility situations.

AMPs are located on flightlines and are used to guide pilots during take-off and landing, and their numbered designation reflects the amount of markers operating and visible to aircraft. During the AMP-4 training here at Yokota, the C-130J pilots and their aircrew engaged in scenarios involving a completely blacked-out flightline.

“All C-130J aircrew are certified for AMP-3 operations, and here at Yokota we can regularly train to covert AMP-2 operations, but AMP-4 requires more in-depth training for aircrew certification,” said Maj. Zebulon Kimball, 374th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. “AMP-4 was approved for C-130J aircrews this year and on Dec. 13, we started the process of getting our aircrew certified.”

Although any AMP designation can operate day or night, Team Yokota took it one step further to conduct AMP-4 at the brink of night. This meant absolutely no lighting on the active runway.

“AMP-4 allows our aircrews to safely land when normal marking or lighting patterns are unavailable,” said Kimball. “This has a broad range of uses, such as landing at unlit large airports for humanitarian relief missions, or landing at covert landing zones in contingency or combat environments.”

Through multiple rotations, each aircraft practiced landings, take-offs, and airdrop operations using only their aircraft’s lighting as a guide or no lighting at all.

“AMP-4 challenges tactical problem-solving, such as how we are going to identify, land, and execute operations on a runway with less assistance than we are used to having,” said Capt. Rand Fowler, 36th Airlift Squadron flight commander. “It gives us the capabilities to land anywhere, anytime, giving us the flexibility to meet mission requirements while keeping crews safe.”

While C-130s are capable of accomplishing a wide array of airlift and airdrop missions, each mission is susceptible to challenges like low or no light visibility. Creating a blacked-out environment through AMP-4 training simulates those austere environments a C-130 is destined to face.

“The C-130J is an excellent aircraft for executing airland missions to small landing zones,” said Kimball. “By certifying our aircrews to land without markings or lights, AMP-4 training expands their capability to land and depart from landing zones under a broader range of circumstances.”

Through advancing combat capabilities even in the dark, Team Yokota is able to equip their pilots and aircrew with a critical skill set needed for airlift support–no matter the obstacle. This training ensures the highest execution standards of evolving airpower operations as defined in Pacific Air Forces’ Strategy 2030.

In PACAF Strategy 2030, organizations in the region are called upon to continuously evolve competence in areas involving agile combat employment, maritime strike, multi-capable readiness, resilient basing, information and intelligence sharing, and contested logistics.

“[C-130 aircrew] are often called to less-than-ideal situations when flying,” said Fowler. “We need to empower crews to deliver airlift anywhere, anytime. This training gives us one more tool in our toolbox to deliver on capabilities when called upon, even if a landing zone is unlit or unmarked.”