McChord C-17 puts flares to the test

By Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on March 11, 2016

A 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircrew found itself away from the rainy climate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and in the sunshine of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, participating in an Air Mobility Command flare effectiveness test, that started Feb. 29.

The C-17 crew along with a C-5 crew from Travis AFB, California, made the journey from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to put their aircraft countermeasures to the test.

The aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat "heat-seeking" surface-to-air missiles.

Headquarters Air Mobility Command A3D requested the flare testing from AMC Test and Evaluation Squadron. With help from AMC TES, the 46th TS, the C-17 and C-5 crew and support from Eglin AFB, the AMC TES made it happen.

Master Sgt. Justin Hudson, AMC TES command senior test director, manages and directs operational tests to provide leadership with unbiased feedback in order for them to make well-informed decisions to provide war-fighter proven solutions.

"We are overseeing the flare effectiveness test and ensuring flares are operating the way they should be," said Hudson. "This test is very important because we are constantly trying to outsmart our enemies. These tests ensure our operators are flying with the most up-to-date countermeasure system."

Not every aircraft in the Air Force has the flares as a defense countermeasure.

"Typically, cargo-carrying aircrafts such as the C-130, C-5 and C-17 carry the flares as a defense countermeasure," said Hudson. "The flares are vital and enhance mission capabilities by defending the aircraft operators."

U.S. Air Force Maj. Mike Motschman, 7th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot and deputy chief McChord Field command post, has had the flares on his aircraft deploy down range but stressed more goes into a successful mission than the aircraft countermeasures.

"Part of being aircrew includes knowing all the aircraft systems and how they operate including the flare systems," said Motschman.

Motschman said there's a lot that goes into evading an enemy.

"It's not just the flares and it's not just the way the aircraft is flown," said Motschman. "Training is probably the most important part, but they all have to come together."

After about a month's worth of testing, Hudson and his team determined the results of the test and composed a report to deliver to AMC.

"We identify risks and improvements and determine whether the test was successful or unsuccessful and explain why," Hudson said.

The team will likely be out here again next year with the same intentions for their mission: to keep the aircrew safe and to stay ahead of the enemy.