Europa — Military Adjusts to Icelandic Volcano’s Ashfall

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2010 — Ash from an Ice­landic vol­cano con­tin­ues to wreak hav­oc with air flights across Europe, includ­ing Amer­i­can mil­i­tary flights.
Thou­sands of com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary flights from Ire­land to the Ukraine have been can­celled as the Eyjaf­jal­la­jokull vol­cano, which start­ed erupt­ing last week, con­tin­ues to spew ash.

The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary is mak­ing adjust­ments. The U.S. bases in Milden­hall and Lak­en­heath, Eng­land, and Ram­stein and Spang­dahlem air bases in Ger­many have been affect­ed by the ash plume.

“There are no flight ops due to the manda­to­ry dec­la­ra­tion and sus­pen­sion of flights from Euro­Con­trol,” Pen­ta­gon spokesman Bryan Whit­man said today. Euro­Con­trol is the equiv­a­lent of the U.S. Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion.

“We still have a sol­id con­tin­gency plan for evac­u­at­ing our wound­ed out of [the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand area], and we’ve relo­cat­ed some of our aeromed­ical evac­u­a­tion air­craft to Rota, Spain, along with med­ical teams that pro­vide for care all along the route,” Whit­man added.

Flights trans­port­ing ill and wound­ed sol­diers that would nor­mal­ly head to Land­stuhl Region­al Med­ical Cen­ter in Ger­many are being rerout­ed. Joint Base Bal­ad in Iraq has become the new hub for mil­i­tary aeromed­ical evac­u­a­tions, with the first patients arriv­ing April 17 at the Air Force The­ater Hos­pi­tal there. The new mede­vac route runs from Bagram, Afghanistan, to Bal­ad, Iraq, to a refu­el­ing stop at Rota and final­ly to Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facil­i­ty Wash­ing­ton in Mary­land.

Tak­ing the wound­ed along the south­ern rim of Europe takes about eight hours longer than fly­ing through Ger­many or Eng­land, Whit­man said, but all aeromed­ical evac­u­a­tion needs are being met. Aer­i­al refu­el­ing will be employed if clin­i­cal needs of the patient require it, offi­cials said, but it has not been need­ed yet.

The ash plume has had no effect on oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Whit­man said. Some resup­ply flights have been affect­ed, with Euro­pean goods now flow­ing from oth­er logis­tics hubs, U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand offi­cials said. Still, most mil­i­tary goods ship via land or water, and these ship­ments have not been affect­ed.

How­ev­er, the ground­ing of flights did affect NATO Exer­cise Bril­liant Ardent 10, U.S. Air Force offi­cials report­ed. The large-scale NATO response air live exer­cise, host­ed by Ger­many, began April 12 and was sched­uled to run through April 22. Dur­ing the exer­cise, the 22nd Fight­er Squadron at Spang­dahlem Air Base and the 351st Air Refu­el­ing Squadron from Roy­al Air Force Milden­hall, have been part­ner­ing with air forces from the Czech Repub­lic, France, Ger­many, Italy, Poland, and Turkey in the exer­cise.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)