Air Task Force-Iraq’s reliable contribution to the Coalition

Article / August 4, 2016

By: Air Task Force - Iraq Staff

Providing aircraft for operational missions nearly every day for three months  straight without fail is no mean task for any Royal Canadian Air Force formation, no matter where.

That Air Task Force – Iraq (ATF-I) has done so over the course of 143 consecutive missions is a testament to Canada’s reliability as a Coalition partner. It also highlights the skills and dedication of the ground crew and planners in keeping the aerial refueling and surveillance aircraft flying in support of the fight against ISIL.

“This is truly a remarkable feat,” said Colonel Jason Major, Commander of ATF-I. “We have contributed valuable and uninterrupted support to the Coalition at a high tempo in a challenging environment for quite a long stretch. Everybody involved in that success should be very proud of this achievement.”

ATF-I maintains a fleet of two CP-140M Maritime Patrol Aircraft and one CC-150T Air to Air Refuelling Aircraft and fly missions on a nearly daily basis.

Add to this tempo the challenges posed by the operational environment. Flying in one of the hottest places on earth and dealing with clouds of blowing sand takes a toll on machines and crew alike. As well, operating with two CP-140M aircraft and one CC-150T aircraft to support two lines of operation leaves little margin for error.

ATF-I runs a 24/7 maintenance regime for both fleets, which includes both military and civilian personnel. Even with 24/7 maintenance, keeping the aircraft flying required cunning, careful forethought and a little luck.

“Maintenance days are always busy as we troubleshoot faulty equipment, rob parts from one aircraft to service another and carefully follow the approved maintenance plan before deferring a defect,” said  one ATF-I staff officer. “The technicians’ dedication and the work they carry out during maintenance days ensure airworthy serviceable aircraft on time for every mission.”

Technicians and other support staff often have to work long hours in temperatures that frequently climb over 50 degrees Celsius. Colonel Major said he applauds the dedication and the operational focus of the ground crew.

“These men and women personify the RCAF’s original motto of ‘Per ardua ad astra’ – ‘through adversity to the stars’,” he said. “They faced numerous challenges and overcame them through perseverance and ingenuity.”

Such mission success is not possible without support from home, either. “There were numerous times where fast communication with home units was critical in ensuring necessary parts were loaded onto service flights,” said the ATF-I staff officer.

During the 143 consecutive missions, the CC-150 remained 100 per cent serviceable, meeting all missions. The CP-140 fleet kept a steady serviceability rate of 72 per cent. This meant that on any given mission day at least one aircraft was able to fly the assigned mission.

The ATF-I operations have resulted in over 29,400,000 pounds of fuel transferred to coalition aircraft, and over 538 reconnaissance missions conducted over Iraq since ATF-I deployed to the Middle East in October 2014.

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