RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — U.S. Air Force active duty and Reserve Airmen and a Polish aircrew delivered the first of five refurbished C-130E Hercules military transport planes and spare parts to the Polish Air Force at Powidz Air Base, March 24.
"It's a great day for them to celebrate the arrival of the Hercules. It's vital to them being able to - own their own - organically pick up and go," said Air Force Maj. Gen. William Chambers, United States Air Forces in Europe director of air and space operations.
"They're one of our allies who are very willing to go. Whether it is Afghanistan or Iraq, they've been alongside the Americans in both fights. The 'Herc' is a great symbol of the American-Polish partnership, and we're grateful to be alongside them."
It was a sentiment echoed by Polish Brig. Gen. Tadeusz Mikutel, 33rd Air Base commander.
"This is a milestone for our air defense. The plane is able to carry 17 tons of equipment, or 90 equipped soldiers. That is why the plane will leave [our] CASA planes behind," said Gen. Mikutel.
Also on hand for the celebration were Stanislaw Komorowski, Poland's vice minister of defense; Polish Lt. Gen. Andrzej Blasik, commander of the Polish Air Force; Pamela Quanrud, deputy chief of mission for the American Embassy in Warsaw; and several Polish military and local government authorities.
The new plane expands the Polish Air Force's ability to transport troops and equipment, while providing support for evacuation and humanitarian operations. Its presence in the Polish fleet will also increase their interoperability with other air forces because the C-130 is used by several nations around the world, to include NATO allies.
The C-130 received an escort to Powidz by F-16s from the PAF when it neared its final destination, and performed two flyovers of the gathered crowd to showcase the newest addition to the Polish inventory. Upon landing, both the American and Polish crews were recognized for the achievement.
"I think we can accomplish a lot of missions to deliver cargo to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Polish Sgt. Andrzej Kozera, C-130 flight engineer.
The Reserve aircrew from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and an active duty loadmaster from Edwards AFB, Calif., picked the plane up in Waco, Texas, with their Polish counterparts after its refurbishment and flew it across the Atlantic, stopping at Ramstein Airbase, Germany. It made its final leg to Powidz Airbase, where it will become part of the 14th Lift Squadron.
The entire project, including total refurbishment of five aircraft, support equipment, supplies, training and contracted logistics support, is valued at $120 million. The donation is a result of an American pledge to provide Poland with such a capability, and is fully funded through bilateral military assistance grant money.
The delivery of the five modernized and upgraded aircraft is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2010.