U-10A Courier

The Air Force received the Helio-GAC L-28A Super Courier in 1958. Its wing span was 39 feet; length, 31 feet; height, 8 feet, 10 inches and wing area, 231 square feet. Its large flaps covered three-fourths of the wing's trailing edge, giving the aircraft a short take-off and landing capability.

The Super Courier, a high wing airplane with fixed landing gear, accommodated a pilot, copilot and four passengers. Its maximum speed was 160 mph and the 60-gallon fuel tank provided a range of 670 miles. Three Air Force L-28As were redesignated U-10A Super Couriers in 1961.

Beginning in 1964, the company produced 100 improved U-10B models with a 295-horsepower Lycoming O-480 engine and a 120-gallon fuel tank, which provided a range of 1,200 miles and a top speed of 200 mph.

Many of these were transferred to Central and South American countries under the Military Assistance Program. The U-10B entered combat in Vietnam in 1965 as an airborne troop carrier for counterinsurgency operations in the jungles.

The air commandos also utilized the U-10 very effectively in civic action programs. The air commando Bold Venture detachment in Panama delivered 200 pounds of books to schoolchildren at Nargana by U-10 Aug. 4, 1962. This provided the children with needed books and the detachment with short field training.

During the Sept. 14, 1962, Air Commando and Special Forces Field Day in Panama, static displays and demonstrations by the Air Force included a U-10 leaflet drop.

Bold Venture personnel provided a demonstration, including a U-10 infiltration, for an Air Reserve squadron and guests consisting of senators, congressmen and senior government officials from Washington, D.C., Dec. 4, 1962.

That same year, an Argentine C-54 crashed in the Panamanian Mountains and a U-10 participated in the search and recovery. It searched for the crash site in the light of flares dropped by a C-46, airlifted rescue personnel as close as possible, then guided them by loudspeaker to the site. The C-46 also photographed the scene. Here the advantages of each air asset were utilized to accomplish the mission most effectively.

On another search mission Dec. 17, a U-10B located a civilian survey party which was lost in the jungle. Crewmembers used its loudspeaker system to coordinate rescue operations.

As Christmas 1962 approached, Bold Venture personnel, using a U-10, flew to David, Panama, to plan Operation Christmas. They agreed to transport several tons of surplus food and donated items ranging from stoves and iceboxes to toys, to David for the holiday. Operation Christmas also benefited Las Minaas, Panama, when a U-10B delivered 1,000 pounds of food, clothing, school supplies and toys.

Santa Claus arrived at Colon, Panama, Dec. 19 by U-10B to distribute presents as part of Operation Santa Claus. Three days later Santa visited Fort Gulick by Super Courier, rather than sleigh.

In Operation Teachers, two Panamanian educators and a special forces medical officer flew in a U-10 to Guanico Abago, Panama, to improve the local understanding of sanitation and hygiene needs. The following day, Dec. 17, a U-10B airlifted two Army Special Forces troops to Nargana Island with clothing and supplies.

Dec. 18 saw a U-10B deliver a missionary and 450 pounds of supplies to Jacque and two U-10 sorties airlift medical personnel and supplies to San Miguel Island.

Also on Dec. 18, there was an aerial survey for a possible landing strip at Chiman, Panama. Such landing strips in the interior of the country were significant to the people in otherwise isolated locations.

The following July 24, a flight surgeon from Albrook Air Force Base, Panama, flew on a U-10 to Guanico Arriba and treated malaria patients who had been identified on a previous visit. These and other civic action missions in December 1962, made it a busy month.

In addition to these activities, the U-10 benefited Panamanians and improved relations with the United States. Air commandos tested improvements on aircraft used in Vietnam and training in exercises both in the U.S. and abroad.

The January-June 1963 tests for developments on the U-10 included a drop ramp, changing the wheels to floats for an exercise and an airborne speaker system which proved very effective in operations in Panama.

A typical week of U-10 activity, March 25-31, 1963, Detachment 2 (Farmgate), Vietnam, included psychological warfare equipment tests, ferrying passengers, airborne relay station duty and search and rescue.

One example of 1st Special Operations Wing overseas exercise participation was Sea Ruler on the island of Crete in August 1963. To get to the exercise site, four U-10s were airlifted by the Military Air Transport Service, the forerunner of Military Air Command, which today is Air Mobility Command.

The U-10 served well, but was considered an interim solution for short takeoff and landing needs. It couldn't meet the civic action requirements in Columbia, Ecuador and Bolivia due to altitude limitations. The long-term solution replaced the U-10Bs, but in the meantime, the command recommended transferring U-10As from other Tactical Air Command units, procuring nine more U-10Bs and raising the U-10B limit to 36,000 pounds.

Over the years, exercises and demonstrations presented many opportunities for realistic training, assessment of tactics employed and education of people the air commandos supported.

Cherokee Trail IV, Oct. 4-15, 1964, provided training and experience in unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency and psychological operations. The 1st Air Commando Wing deployed two U-10s, three A-1Es and three C-123s. Training sorties included infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, personnel paradrops, leaflet delivery, loudspeaker operations, visual and photo reconnaissance, air strikes, convoy escort, evacuation, liaison and message drops. Equipment, procedures, deployment, employment and redeployment were evaluated under the heading of lessons learned.

Two U-10 Couriers flew to Fort Benning, Ga., May 19, 1970, to participate in a night firepower demo for the West Point senior class. In Brass Strike VII, one U-10 joined 20 other 1st SOW aircraft and 180 people in demonstrating tactical air support for Army ground forces. These activities were representative of U-10 capabilities in exercises, training and demonstrations.

When an Army helicopter used in a joint Ethiopian-U.S. mapping survey landed at a small village in northern Ethiopia in July 1965, bandits seized it and took two Army personnel and an Ethiopian translator prisoner. The bandits destroyed the helicopter.

In response, the Joint Chiefs of Staff activated the Draw Play operation plan for a military rescue and called the 1st ACW for a U-10B, two pilots and support personnel. They were placed on three-hour deployment alert, but the bandits released the prisoners when they reached the Ethiopian border and the JCS cancelled Draw Play. Although they weren't needed, this action demonstrated the capability of the air commandos to respond quickly to events halfway around the world.

Much nearer to home, the 1st ACW conducted a search in August 1966 for an A-4 aircraft, which crashed in Louisiana. The U-10s flew more than 18 hours.

The base mounted a humanitarian effort in August 1969 to aid the victims of Hurricane Camille, which struck Mississippi and Louisiana. A U-10 circled Hurlburt Field and used its speaker system to appeal for food, clothing and household items for the hurricane relief effort.

The 1st SOW U-10 aircraft actively participated in the special joint Air Force-Department of Agriculture project to eradicate the screwworm from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The fly produced a parasite, which caused considerable economic loss to the livestock industry. The 1st SOW airlifted sterile male insects from Mission, Texas, to Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico. These were dispersed over the infected area of the islands. Although the female only lived 21 days, she produced approximately 2,000 offspring. Sterile eggs were the key to wiping out the screwworm.

This program, nicknamed Coronet Roundup, began in 1971. The sterile males were delivered from the U.S. by C-123s and released by U-10s which flew 104 sorties and 216.7 hours during the July-Sept 1971 quarter. In that time they dropped more than 20,000 boxes containing 35 million flies. Sterile Mexican flies replaced the Texas-grown flies Nov. 29, 1971, because they were considered better suited to the eradication program. Also, the screwworm flies in Puerto Rico were closely related to those in southern Mexico. If they were moved north to the U.S., the knowledge and experience gained from Coronet Roundup could be very valuable.

Early in 1972, the number of flies released per square mile was increased from 2,000 to 20,000, which represented a total increase of one million flies per week. However, the Mexican flies didn't live up to expectations. They were only sexually active four days after release and only 2-5 percent effective. To compensate for these problems, releases were made twice a week and Puerto Rican flies replaced the Mexican flies.

The Coronet Roundup concept of mating sterile male flies with female files to produce infertile eggs proved successful. The Virgin Islands were declared free of the screwworm fly Nov. 15, 1972. However, the 1st SOW program in Puerto Rico continued until the end of 1975 when the Air Force Reserves took over Coronet Roundup. What had initially been planned as a six-month program, continued for more than two years due to the incompatibility of fly strains and an apathetic attitude by natives in providing data. During that time, U-10s flew 1,142 sorties, which required 2,167.2 flying hours. Here was an excellent example of a mission not usually associated with special operations and the air commandos, but they had the capability to perform it effectively when called upon.

The last three U-10s departed Hurlburt Field July 10 and 13, 1973. Two flew to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, and one to retirement in the Air Force "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

The U-10 on display in the Air Park served the Air Force from 1961-1971. In those 10 years the aircraft was assigned to Malmstrom AFB, Montana, in 1961; Fairchild AFB, Washington., in 1962; Goldman AFB, Kentucky, in 1962; Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina, in 1963; and Hurlburt Field in 1964. In May 1971 the aircraft was dropped from the inventory and was dedicated in the Air Park on October 20, 1973.