Amazing photos show the Air Force’s biggest plane testing flares to lure away enemy missiles

C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane flares
A 436th Airlift Wing C-5M Super Galaxy releases flares during a test at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, May 12, 2021.

  • The giant C-5M Super Galaxy released flares during a defensive countermeasures test on the Eglin range.
  • Flares are high-temperature heat sources used to mislead surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles’ heat-seekers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A C-5M Super Galaxy, belonging to the 436th Airlift Wing, from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was involved in a defensive countermeasures testing campaign that saw the US Air Force’s largest aircraft release flares, at night, over an area of the Eglin range, Florida.

Each night, the C-5M released more than 15 flares, repeating the same operation several times, entering the area from different entry points and angles, to increase aircraft and crew combat survivability by evaluating and fielding improved defensive systems capabilities.

Flares are high-temperature heat sources used to mislead surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles’ heat-seeking targeting systems, creating the pyrotechnic visual effect similar to a fireworks display.

Such countermeasures are used against MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) and IR-guided surface-to-air missiles.

The giant C-5M Super Galaxy released flares at 300 knots and 1,500 feet: A unique opportunity for both the 9th Airlift Squadron’s operational aircrew involved in the testing and the US Air Force photographer Samuel King Jr., who took the amazing shots you can find in this story.

C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane flares
A C-5M releases flares during a test at Eglin Air Force Base, May 12, 2021.

“There are rare situations when the aircraft does pop flares,” said Capt. Bryan Chanson, 9th AS pilot in a news release.

“The crew is usually focused primarily on flying out or away from the potential threat and hoping flares do their intended jobs. The testing allowed us to gain the situational awareness to concentrate on flare dispense in a safe environment.”

C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane flares
A C-5M releases flares during a test at Eglin Air Force Base, May 12, 2021.

“Countermeasure testing like this is a Team Eglin event,” said Capt. Daniel Clarke, 46th TS Defensive Systems Flight commander. “Our test engineers work hand in hand with the 96th Range Group to ensure resources are ready to test and collect data and the 96th Maintenance Group ensures every flare tested is loaded on to each aircraft.”

Interestingly, the C-5M Super Galaxy testing with flares was just the start of a two-month test program, according to the Air Mobility Command.

Through the end of June, the 96th Cyberspace Test Group will execute flare testing on four more aircraft from Air Force Special Operations Command, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center and AMC.

Let’s wait for some more cool flares shots then!

C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane flares
A C-5M releases flares during a test at Eglin Air Force Base, May 12, 2021.

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