USAF C-17 munitions RAF Fairford

09/02/2024

On February 7th, a NOTAM was posted for RAF Fairford stating that the airfield would be closed to non-participating aircraft from 08:30 - 12:15 on Friday 9th February. Curious as to what this could be, I took advantage of my work rest day and went to Fairford. Not long after I'd arrived, it became clear that the NOTAM was for a USAF C-17, more specifically one I'd already caught at Glasgow Prestwick Airport: https://www.olliehillaviationphotography.co.uk/l/glasgow-prestwick-airport-usaf/

After a nearly two-hour delay, REACH339 finally got airborne from Ramstein Air Base, Germany for the hop to Fairford. My assumption was that once it landed, it would park in front of the climate-controlled hangars on the north side of the base, seen here: https://www.olliehillaviationphotography.co.uk/l/raf-fairford-base-visit/

Having landed at roughly 10:40, the aircraft vacated runway 27 and held on the taxiway whilst working a slight issue, it then turned right off the taxiway and started heading for the Marston Meysey end of the base. Intrigued to know the reason why, I went to Dunfield Crash Gate, a place that would give me the best view. Looking across at the aircraft and the sheer amount of kit surrounding it, it became apparent that the aircraft was loading munitions, and that the base was closed because of this.

Before it had departed back to Ramstein, I had gone onwards to RAF Brize Norton for some more spotting. 

The 501st Combat Support Wing went on to share the nature of the flight in this news article: https://www.501csw.usafe.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/3678247/420th-muns-troops-hone-warfighting-capabilities/

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III 07-7172 REACH339

The opportunity arose again to catch a C-17 munition flight on February 15th, and knowing that I had not seen this C-17 before, I made the trip again to Fairford. The same as before, the aircraft arrived from Ramstein and held on the taxiway after vacating the runway. This time, however, was for a much different problem. For the munitions to start being loaded onto the Globemaster, the runway had to be closed, which was no good as one of the resident U-2s was no more than 45 minutes out of base after another reconnaissance mission. After much back and forth between the tower and the aircraft, it was decided that the Globemaster would move position and hold on another taxiway, giving the U-2 the taxiway to park. By the time the U-2 returned, the C-17 had already parked up, but the loading delay meant they weren't expecting to get out on time. In the end, it departed at 15:20, only two and a half hours after arriving. 

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III 08-8194 REACH105