C-160 D/ESS Transall
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of a flying legend
On 25 May 2013, it will be 50 years since a Transall preproduction aircraft took off in Lemwerder for the first time. At a time which was deeply marked by the Cold War, no one could have imagined that the new Franco-German coproduction would still be in operational service in military air transport after half a century: 50 years after their German maiden flight, the Transall aircraft of the German Air Force are still operating worldwide, currently with three aircraft under the command of Air Transport Wing 61 (LTG 61) over West Africa.
Air Transport Wing 61 thus is the right unit to honor the Transall success story in a ceremony with a parade at Landsberg/Penzing Air Base on 24 May 2013.
Beginning of a success story
The project studies for a successor model to the French “Noratlas” transport aircraft began as early as 1957 while the “Noratlas” was still being introduced in the German Air Force. The goal was to develop and produce a medium-size transport aircraft in accordance with the requirements of both countries. Despite the different requirements of the two air forces of France and Germany, a joint draft could be submitted in 1959, which led to the establishment of the “Transporter Alliance” - consortium on 28 January 1959. The designation was abbreviated to “Transall” and has been the name of a real transport legend for 54 years now.
While the French preproduction aircraft already celebrated its maiden flight on 25 February 1963, Version 2 followed in Lemwerder near Bremen exactly three months later on 25 May 1963 and Version 3 in Hamburg-Finkenwerder on 19 February 1964. After comprehensive trials in which the Bundeswehr Technical and Airworthiness Center for Aircraft (WTD 61, Wehrtechnische Dienststelle 61) in Manching participated on the German side, the German Air Force took over the first Transall C-160D with tail number 50+06 on 26 April 1968. In total, the German Air Force received 110 of the 169 Transall C-160 aircraft manufactured as the first batch, though 20 of these aircraft were already resold to Turkey in 1971/1972.
The Transall has been designed as a twin-engine high-wing monoplane. Its cargo compartment can be reached via a large tail cargo hatch. The cargo compartment is around 14 meters long and three meters high and wide, which allows vehicles, containers and other cargo to be easily carried. The Transall aircraft is characterized by particularly good short-takeoff and landing capabilities – and the extraordinary landing gear of the Transall makes it possible to land even on unpaved ground such as grass, sand or stone runways. Thus the Transall aircraft can be used flexibly and is able to land almost everywhere in the world – which predestined it as early as 1971 to conduct the first humanitarian UN operations in the remotest places such as the Sahel region.
“As busy as a bee, as good-natured as an elephant”
Besides performing normal materiel transport, the Transall is able to drop cargo from the air (airdrop procedure), to transport up to 93 passengers or to drop parachutists. In the medical evacuation version, it can transport up to 62 stretchers for its patients. These capabilities make the Transall the aircraft of choice for humanitarian relief operations and earned it the epithet “Angel of the Air”. Whether earthquake relief operations in Italy or Turkey, famines in Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, the Sarajevo airlift or operations conducted to evacuate - most recently - European citizens from Libya: The Transall is always there. It has significantly and reliably ensured the worldwide and flexible air transport of the Bundeswehr and has transported well over 5 million passengers to date. Various nations also used the Transall in a non-military role – for instance as “mail aircraft” – even though these civilian versions were basically based on the military version.
Hardly a mission without the Transall
The resilience and operational strength of this aircraft, which was originally designed only for operations within Europe, are revealed by the fact that it is still employed in all Bundeswehr missions today – more than half a century after its maiden flight: For example, since the ISAF mission began, Transall aircraft have been stationed in Termez/Uzbekistan and later in Mazar-e Sharif (MeS)/Afghanistan. At times they make up over 50 percent of NATO’s air transport capacity within Afghanistan, thus providing one of the key services for the - international – operation accomplishment on site.
One of the German transport aircraft is always kept available in medical evacuation readiness at the German MeS operational wing to transport injured and wounded personnel from the theater of operations to the field hospital.
In the period from 1986 to 1992, the service life of the Transall fleet was extended to after 2010 using the LEDA I to III program. In this context, the airframe structure was examined in detail, weak points were identified and the airframes were reinforced where necessary. Further measures included the installation of an autonomous navigation system, a modern flight computer system as well as measures for active and passive protection of the aircraft. These include radar warning receivers, missile warning systems and radar- and infrared decoys.
“On behalf of Europe”
No other name in Germany is as closely associated with air transport as the Transall is.
On 4 October 2011, the “Angel of the Air” reached its one millionth flying hour. And even after 50 years, the Transall aircraft can still be used reliably and flexibly.
However, most of their missions are no longer planned and conducted by Germany or France nationally but by the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in Eindhoven, where the air forces of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg still use the capabilities of the Transall aircraft today – which is also an expression of the confidence that the military forces still place in the “old lady”, which conducts the majority of all missions on behalf of the EATC, but will be gradually replaced by the Airbus A400M aircraft - arriving in Germany from late 2014. The Transall aircraft designated as C160 ESS, which have the special capability of a self-protection system, will be phased out last in Germany to maintain the German Air Force's and EATC’s capability of tactical air transport until the takeover of the A400M aircraft has been completed.Until then most of these aircraft will service at ATW 63 (Northern Germany) for SpecOps missions until there final dissolvement planned for 2022/2023.
The 50+06 “Rendsburg” aircraft of LTG 63 was delivered to the German Air Force on 26 April 1968.
It reached the one millionth flying hour and was phased out in the spring of this year.
Text Norbert Thomas
Find out more about the ATW 61 here