11 C-17 jets to leave Charleston AFB all at once in exercise Thursday morning

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base releases flares over the Atlantic Ocean during a local exercise in 2006.

Charleston Air Force Base will put a formation of 11 C-17 cargo planes into the air all at once Thursday morning as part of a joint exercise with the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina.

Weather permitting, the planes will fly over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and Charleston Harbor when they return later in the afternoon.

A time window for the return trip has not yet been announced.

The exercise is a test of combat readiness with units out of Pope Field, N.C. The 11 C-17s will rendezvous with four other C-17s at Pope Field during their All American Week. The Charleston part of the mission includes active-duty airmen from the 437th Airlift Wing and the 628th Air Base Wing, and reservists from the 315th Airlift Wing.

In all, 1,470 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne will be air-dropped during the exercise.

“This will allow us to perform just about every aspect of our combat mission, including the development of intelligence scenarios, getting aircraft ready to launch, loading aircraft and performing airdrop and special operations, in addition to surviving in a chemical environment and performing landings on semi-prepared runways,” Col. John Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing commander, said in a media release.

The exercise has been coordinated with the Charleston County Aviation Authority and should not delay regularly scheduled flights at Charleston International Airport.

Takeoff from Charleston will be between 7:30-9 a.m., the base said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.