Ramstein C-130Js visit RAF Fairford

16/12/2023

I was surprised to wake up on Saturday, 16th December, to the news that Fairford was open for the day. This generally indicates that there will be some aircraft in or out. It wasn't all that clear what the movements would be. A U-2 had departed on Monday, 11th December, and had failed to return, so maybe it would be that returning? As it turned out, a pair of Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules' from Ramstein Air Base were the day's scheduled movements. One was due in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It became evident that one of Fairford's resident U-2s was broken away from home. 

The first aircraft of the day was 11-5738, arriving from Germany displaying its recently applied D-Day invasion stripes ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day in June 2024. This is one of six aircraft currently marked up as such. The aircraft arrived at 08:20 and departed at 12:50 for Powidz Air Base, loaded with U-2 equipment for the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron's stranded jet. The second aircraft arrived in slightly nicer weather only ten minutes before the first departed. The second aircraft also displayed D-Day invasion stripes, which made for a nice photo as the two aircraft taxied past each other.

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 11-5738 HERKY786

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 15-5831 HERKY787

Fairford reopened on Sunday, 17th December for another pair of C-130s picking up kit. The first aircraft arrived before I had even awoken! It was the boss bird of the 86th Airlift Wing, 08-8601. The aircraft called for engine start but after almost an hour it hadn't started. In the meantime, I caught the second arrival, which had visited the previous day. 08-8601 showed no signs of leaving, so I went home. 

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 08-8601 HERKY788

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 15-5831 HERKY789

I returned the following day in the hopes of catching the B-2 Spirit... depart: https://www.olliehillaviationphotography.co.uk/l/b-2-spirit-stealth-bomber-diverts-into-raf-fairford/

... and found two Ramstein hercs on the deck, one from the previous day and another that rocked up that morning. Within half an hour of my arrival, HERKY790 had departed. 08-8601 also departed later that day, but I couldn't stick around for it. 

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 07-8614 HERKY790

With the broken U-2 returning to Fairford on Friday 22nd December, the kit was no longer needed in Poland and would be returned to the UK. The first flight back was on Friday 29th December, when 15-5831 flew to Powidz as HERKY797. It arrived in Fairford at around 15:10 and left again around 16:30. C-130 07-8614 flew to Powidz as HERKY796 earlier in the day, but it departed Powidz back to Ramstein around 90 minutes later. Having seen it twice prior, I didn't bother going to see this arrival.

The next day, three C-130s flew to Powidz and onto Fairford. While the first arrived in daylight, the other two left Poland just too late and as such arrived in near darkness. The movements happened in quick succession, however, with HERKY798 departing just after HERKY799s arrival and just before HERKY700s arrival. It was great to see Fairford so busy with hercs over those two weekends as they're not regular visitors to Gloucestershire.

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 15-5831 HERKY797

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 07-8614 HERKY798

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 07-8635 HERKY799

https://youtu.be/nVz75a-GYWY

USAF Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules 15-5831 HERKY700

https://youtu.be/WwJdhwdcgEc<br>