JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The Lakehurst assault landing zone is only half the size of McGuire Field runways, however, its short span enables training that keeps C-17 Globemaster III pilots mission qualified.
The ALZ is used to replicate the experience of an assault landing and assesses pilots’ precise flying, planning and general knowledge of the strategic maneuver.
“Due to the nature of forward operating bases, many of them do not provide what is typically a suitable landing surface or distance,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jay Vogtsberger, 6th Airlift Squadron Instructor Pilot. “In these locations, assault landings are necessary in order to move in critical supplies to further develop the FOB and to support contingency operations in the region. Practicing at Lakehurst allows us to see exactly what it would look like to land on a very short strip of pavement with very little room for error.”
The ALZ’s close proximity allows aircraft commanders here to complete 24 assault landings annually.
“The main skill assessed [during] an assault is a pilot’s ability to control the plane down to a precise point of touchdown, in a range of weather conditions,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Trevor Leeming, 6th Airlift Squadron Instructor Pilot. “Additionally, when we fly to the ALZ, we are usually mimicking arriving at a tactical downrange location. Therefore, we incorporate a significant amount of tactical arrival planning to not only land at the ALZ, but do so while practicing threat mitigation.
The landing zone not only provides the ability to practice assault landings to pilots assigned to Joint Base MDL, but it also extends its capabilities to 18 other units.
“If the Lakehurst ALZ didn’t exist we would have to look elsewhere or expand waivers for using painted assault strips on longer runways,” Leeming said. “The closest ALZ similar to Lakehurst would be North Airfield Aux in South Carolina. With a direct flight from McGuire to North Airfield Aux, it would be around 500 miles and take about an hour and a half just to get there. The C-17 burns anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 pounds of fuel per hour. So just in fuel savings alone from an environmental standpoint Lakehurst is an asset to the U.S. Air Force. When you account for the cost of fuel, you are looking at a huge savings.”
Having the landing zone at Lakehurst allows the U.S. Air Force pilots to integrate with U.S. Navy partners and controllers embedded in the 305th Operations Support Squadron
“It allows us to work seamlessly as a team and train across both services, leading to a great training environment for all parties,” Leeming said.