HOHENFELS, Germany — The Air Force’s workhorse has resumed tactical landing training in Hohenfels.

In March, C-130s conducted about 20 short-takeoff-and-landing maneuvers each night at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. STOL maneuvers require pilots to touch down inside a 500-foot landing zone and stop within 3,300 feet.

The training mimics the sort of rough landings pilots are likely to experience when supplying isolated outposts in Afghanistan.

“Imagine a 130,000-pound aircraft with a 132-foot wingspan flying well over 120 mph and landing on an 80-foot-wide gravel runway, then reversing the propeller’s pitch and stopping in less than 1,500 feet,” said Air Force Capt. Alec Zwiaska.

Such landings are necessary in Afghanistan so that C-130s can get into some of the smaller forward operating bases and combat outposts, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Scotty Brisco, who leads a detachment of air liaison personnel at JMRC.

The Ramstein-based planes had used the Hohenfels airstrip until 2006, until the Army built an airstrip for its unmanned aerial vehicles. The new strip encroached upon the wing-span safety clearance necessary to fly and land on the STOL strip, according to a readiness center news release.

For the past four years, C-130 crews have had to travel to the States to complete their STOL training.

But the airstrip used by the C-130s was recently built up with gravel to gain the required clearance so it could be used again. That makes the training at JMRC more relevant for the 24,000 U.S. and allied troops who use the center each year, according to a readiness center statement.

Air Force Capt. Justin Brumley, of the 37th Airlift Squadron, landed the first C-130 on the improved airstrip last month.

He said the many villages — even the simulated ones built by the Army — that surround the Hohenfels training area add to the realism.

“That sort of scenario is exactly like it is downrange,” Brumley said. “Not only do we have to arrive tactically, but also ensure we comply with no-fly zones.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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