By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterFebruary 9, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala -- As the rotor wash of a CH-47 Chinook carrying its payload -- a C-12 C/D -- sent leaves and debris flying through the air, the plane became the first fixed-wing aircraft to call the Aviation Combat Forensics Lab home.
The C-12, which was provided as Government Furnished Equipment under the contract for the U.S. Army's fixed-wing flight training programs, was sling loaded by Fort Rucker pilots and crews of the Directorate of Evaluation and Standards from the Dothan Airport to the Fort Rucker forensics lab Jan. 31, according to Donald Page Jr., U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence G3.
The aircraft acquired through these programs have been used in these roles for approximately two decades and are near the end of their service life, said Page. The C-12 was requested by the Aviation Survivability Development and Tactics Team to be used as a training aid in its forensics lab.
CW4 Bart Schmidt and CW3(P) Mark Chamberlin, ASDAT Aviation combat forensics officers, both said the addition of the fixed-wing aircraft is a first and something they hope will aid in their training efforts.
"The (forensics lab) is used for (Joint Combat Assessment Team) training, and this is their initial phase of training," said Schmidt. "We're just trying to rejuvenate the yard. We use the (lab) year round and this (training) makes it hands on -- makes it real."
The forensics lab is home to different aircraft that have sustained damage from different types of weapon systems, and the goal is to give students going through training a hands-on and visual interpretation of what they will see when they encounter downed aircraft in the field, Chamberlin said.
"We do annual training with joint forces -- Air Force, Navy and some Army -- to curate (JCAT) assessors and this is Phase 1 of their training," he said. "Phase 1 gets their eyes open to what they can expect and how to assess an aircraft, as far as weapons effects."
The C-12 that was sling loaded to the lab has yet to sustain any "battle damage," but will soon be ready for its role in the training after it's transported to either Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, or Fort Benning, Georgia, where it will endure weapon systems testing.
After the weapon systems testing, the aircraft will be assessed by the Fort Rucker ASDAT team to figure out which type of weapon systems were used on the aircraft, and then it will be brought back to the forensics lab ready for its training aid role, Schmidt said.
"Those going through the course will take a look at the aircraft and also try to come up with what weapon system shot at it," he said.
ASDAT's role extends beyond just assessments on aircraft, though, added Schmidt.
"(With those assessments), we're taking the threat that we're seeing and how the enemy is employing that threat, and seeing what (tactics, techniques and procedures), or counter-TTPs we can come up with to make the aircraft (and crew) more survivable," he said.
Phase 1 of JCAT training only takes place once a year, so the rest of the year other professional military education personnel, such as safety officers and maintenance officers, will utilize the forensics lab and the new addition to what they call the "bone yard," said Chamberlin.
"We'll take them out to the bone yard and do a brief with them, then finish up at the (lab) to show them the stuff we talked about in the brief so that they know what it actually looks like," he said. "They get to see what that weapon system does to that airframe, so they have an actual hands-on look at what it looks like, so if they see it again downrange … they can see that there is this specific threat in (their) environment, and that they need to be cognizant of that."
With the C-12 being the first fixed-wing airframe to be added to the forensics lab, the ASDAT team hopes the plane isn't the last in a line of firsts.
Schmidt said they hope to be able to add a full AH-64 Apache and full-size CH-47 Chinook to the lab.
"We want to make the (lab) as accurate as possible," he said.