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Osan air mobility squadron aids in helicopter swap out

by Master Sgt. Paul Kilgallon
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/14/2009 - OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 731st Air Mobility Squadron and Soldiers from the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade worked side by side on the Osan Air Base flightline Sept. 9 when a C-17 Globemaster III arrived with three new AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters.

They are the first of 24 new upgraded Block II helicopters the 2nd CAB ordered to modernize their fleet.

"The two big changes these new helicopters have compared to the Block I's are enhanced night vision and engine upgrades," said Mr. Paul Bush, an aviation analyst assigned with the 2nd CAB. "These upgrades will increase target acquisition for the pilot, and bring a more reliable system that will reduce maintenance times and repair costs."

Mr. Bush also said the new Block II helicopters have upgrades to the digital communications, enhancements to the cockpit and other additions that are designed to aid in target identification and tracking.

Army officials estimate that more than 700 Apaches helicopters will be equipped with these new upgrades by 2011, he added.

After unloading the new Block II helicopters, the Airmen and Soldiers then loaded three of the older Block I helicopters onto the C-17, completing the first of several swap out's.

Airmen at the 731st AMS are used to seeing and handling different types of equipment transported by cargo aircraft, but Senior Airman Isaiah Patrick said this was his first time seeing something like this here.

"I was a little surprised because (the Apaches) are really large helicopters in comparison the type of cargo we see here at the port on a daily basis," Airman Patrick said. "When we load C-17 aircraft, we normally just load pallets that are about 60 inches high. But when loading these helicopters on the airplane, every inch of cargo space was utilized to its fullest capacity. This experience really gave a new perspective of C-17's capabilities."

Mr. Bush praised the efforts of the Airmen in swapping the helicopters.

"The level of support from the Air Force was just fantastic," said Mr. Bush. "These missions couldn't happen without both services working together and we appreciate their help in bringing these assets into the theater."

Airmen from the 731st AMS also felt the mission was beneficial and rewarding.

"It was a great experience and a good opportunity for us to work with our sister service, said Tech. Sgt. Michael Gomes, the 731st AMS Ramp Services Operations manager. "By helping the 2nd CAB accomplish their mission, it let us see just how effective Air Mobility Command's global reach really is."

The remaining Apache AH-64 Block II helicopters will be airlifted from Fort Hood, Texas, aboard Air Mobility Command aircraft for the next several months until the transition is complete.

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