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Airdrop operations frequently include an airlanding component. The bravo echelon of an airborne assault is made up of personnel who do not jump but arrive on fixed-wing aircraft. If the airfield has only minimal damage, the bravo echelon should begin arriving at P+6 (6 hours after the first jumper leaves the first aircraft). The rest of the infantry battalion arrive among these elements.

Airborne forces can accomplish certain phases of airborne operations, or even the entire operation, by using airland to deliver personnel and equipment to the objective area. In some cases, airlanding rather than airdropping personnel and equipment may be advantageous because airlanding provides the most economical means of airlift. It delivers Army aviation elements, engineering equipment, artillery pieces, and other mission-essential items in one operation, and provides a readily available means of casualty evacuation.

Airlanding allows units to maintain tactical integrity and to deploy rapidly after landing. It also allows the use of units with little special training and equipment, and does not require extensive preparation and rigging of equipment. Airlanding offers a relatively reliable means of personnel and equipment delivery regardless of weather, and precludes equipment damage and personnel injuries units may experience in parachute operations.

In other cases, airlanding is not advantageous because it cannot be used for forced entry. It requires moderately level, unobstructed LZs with adequate soil trafficability. It also requires more time for delivery of a given size force than airdrop, especially for small, restricted LZs. It generally requires improvement or new construction of airland facilities, which adds to the engineer workload. Airlanding requires some form of airlift control element support at offloading airfields. Mission intervals depend on airlift control element size, offloaded equipment availability, and airfield support capability.

The tactical integrity of participating units is a major consideration in an airland operation. Small units that are expected to engage in combat on landing, airland organizationally intact with weapons, ammunition, and personnel in the same aircraft, whenever possible. Joint planning stresses placing units as close as possible to objectives, consistent with the availability of LZs and the operational capability of the tactical aircraft employed. Because of aircraft vulnerability on the ground, units unload as quickly as possible. The airborne commander determines the makeup of each aircraft load and the sequence of delivery.

The mission, the tactical situation, and the assigned forces influence this decision. Units should use existing facilities, such as roads and open areas, to reduce the time and effort required for new construction. They should consider layouts that facilitate future expansion and provide maximum deployment and flexibility. As the size and efficiency of an air facility improve, its value to the enemy as a target increases. To reduce this vulnerability, the facilities should be dispersed and simple.

In November 1964 a number of plans were developed for conducting other operations to relieve hostages held by rebel forces in the Congo. The seizure of Bunia, approximately 400 miles east of Stanleyville, was to be considered next because many hostages, including women and children, were reported to be held at Mongwalu just north of Bunia. Bunia had a 6,000-foot, hard-surfaced runway which, although currently obstructed with oil drums, would permit the airlanding of motorized equipment and the rapid evacuation of rescued hostages by air once the field had been seized and secured. Paulis-225 miles northeast of Stanleyville-be considered as a secondary objective for additional operations. Many hostages were held in Paulis and the town had an airfield that would be suitable for airlanding operations. However, the runway was of compacted earth and might not be suitable for use in the event of rain; therefore, determination of the practicality of using this strip would have to be made by personnel in the Congo. Another place considered for a relief operation was Watsa, some 375 miles northeast of Stanleyville and known as a holding area for male hostages whose families had been evacuated to Bunia. It was not suitable for airlanding operations because the runway was of compact earth and its length was only 2,400 feet. An assault on this objective would therefore require the airdropping of both personnel and equipment.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:20:15 Zulu