Air Transportation: April 11, 2003


For the first time in combat, the U.S. C-17 air transport moved M-1 Abrams tanks onto a battlefield. An unannounced number of M-1 tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry vehicles have been flown to airfields in northern (Kurdish controlled) Iraq. This tank moving capability was part of the basic specification for C-17s. But it is rarely used because the concentration of weight puts a lot of stress on the C-17, especially during landings. In fact, the air force refuses to land a C-17 carrying a Abrams on a dirt landing field. The C-17 is built to land on such crude fields, but this also puts a lot of extra stress on the landing gear. So adding a rough field and a C-17 with an Abrams is considered too risky. The C-17 can also carry two Bradleys. These, together, are nearly as heavy as one M-1, but the weight is distributed more evenly. These armored vehicles are probably being flow in from Kuwait, where the U.S. 4th Mechanized division had been unloading its equipment for the last week or so. The distance is only about 800 kilometers, so a C-17 could make one round trip every three hours or so. There some reports of as many as a hundred armored vehicles appearing in northern Iraq, which would indicate two or three battalions of troops. This could be a brigade, with some of the 4th Mechanized division infantry traveling in trucks. 


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