Flying Operations


»»»Compliance with this publication is mandatory«««

MCI 11-217, C-17 Airlift Operations, implements AFPD 11-2, Flight Rules and Procedures. Volume 16 establishes aircrew procedures for emergency airlift of nuclear weapons on the C-17. It is printed and revised as an individual volume. This instruction applies to the US Air Force Reserve. Office of collateral responsibility for this volume is HQ AETC/XOT.


Section A—Mission Preparation

Emergency Nuclear Airlift 1

Conduct of Operations 2

Emergency Nuclear Airlift Standards 3

Aircrew Selection 4

Aircrew Requirements 5

Aircrew Briefings 6

Emergency Mission Kit 7

Section B—Enroute Procedures

General 8

Custody of Nuclear Cargo 9

Security Procedures 10

Emergency Procedures 11

Maintenance of Aircraft Loaded with Nuclear Cargo 12


Emergency Nuclear Airlift Operations Guide 7


Section A—Mission Preparation

1. Emergency Nuclear Airlift. Airlift of nuclear weapons may be tasked at any time. The amount of preparation and assistance required will depend entirely on the length of time AMC has to move the weapons. If feasible, use the Emergency Nuclear Airlift Operations Guide (attached).

NOTE: Use of these procedures requires SECDEF approval.

2. Conduct of Operations. Crews will be briefed on and receive detailed instructions from a specific OPLAN or mission directive. If there is a conflict between this regulation and the instructions in an OPLAN or mission directive, use the OPLAN or mission directive.

3. Emergency Nuclear Airlift Standards. In an emergency, the objective is to move the weapons safely in a short time. Crews are expected to use sound judgment and common sense in what may be a turbulent or tense environment. Comply with as many of the nuclear weapons system safety rules (outlined in MCR 55-18, Volume 1, Nuclear Airlift Operations [to become MCI 11-218, Volume 1]) as possible. Pay particular attention to the following areas:

3.1. Nuclear weapons must be handled safely. The most immediate hazard is the high explosive that can be set off by shock or heat in most nuclear weapons. Use standard aircraft dash-9 loading procedures. Keep the loading controlled and orderly at all times. Load or handle only one item or pallet at a time. Crews may ask shipper or receiver personnel to help, but the overall aircraft loading responsibility still belongs to the aircrew. Time permitting, crews should refer to Technical Order (TO) 1C-17A-16-1 or -16-2, section I, II, III, or IV, for specific instructions that could help crews during onload or offload. Step-by-step use of the dash-16-1 is not necessary.

3.2. Load plan:

3.2.1. If crews are required to move the maximum number of one type of weapon, section VI of the dash-16-1 is the best guide to determine where to position the weapons. Use the maximum tested figure.

3.2.2. For mixed loads (more than one type of weapon), base the load plan on how many weapons can be properly restrained using dash-9 criteria. Do not allow weapons to rub or touch each other when tied down.

3.2.3. Crews may use the dash-9 to compute shoring requirements or section VI of the dash-16-1, which shows parking and rolling shoring requirements for each weapon. For winching operations, the dash-16-1 is a good guide for positioning approach shoring.

3.3. Use standard dash-9 restraint criteria. Crews may use the tiedown patterns in the dash 16-1, which may exceed dash-9 criteria. The tiedown patterns will aid crews in floor planning a maximum tested load.

3.4. The route of flight must not violate restrictions in the classified United States Air Force Special Weapons Overflight Guide (SWOG). Overflying a foreign country with nuclear weapons is an extremely sensitive issue, even in an emergency airlift. Comply with the SWOG at all times. If crews don't have access to the SWOG, request a route of flight that complies with the SWOG through command and control center (CCC) channels. The CCC must ensure the route of flight is provided to the aircrew by the most expeditious means available. If no route of flight is provided, fly normal air traffic control (ATC) routings to the destination. Do not divulge the nature of cargo to any en route ATC facility or country to obtain a specific clearance.

3.5. United States military custody of nuclear weapons is required. Normally, the copilot is the courier who has custody of the nuclear cargo for the flight. Under certain conditions, the shipper may furnish United States military couriers who will retain custody of the weapons in flight.

4. Aircrew Selection. All C-17 active duty aircrews may be used for ENAF. Time permitting, AMC will use a sliding scale of options, which may be one or more of the following:

4.1. Assign Prime Nuclear Airlift Force (PNAF) loadmasters (LM) and pilots so as to have one or the other on each aircraft.

4.2. Place PNAF pilot and LM teams at the onload bases to assist with the loads and flight plans.

4.3. Use non-PNAF crews in a prepared OPLAN scenario with planned, organized loads.

4.4. Use non-PNAF crews in a short notice, bare-base environment with little or no advance preparation or assistance.

4.5. Use ARC crews with Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) approval.

5. Aircrew Requirements:

5.1. Crew complement will be according to the OPLAN or specific mission directive. If not specified, use a normal crew complement (basic crew, only one LM required).

5.2. The crew will be armed IAW MCR 55-18, Volume 1.

5.3. If crews are tasked for a mission that has a higher security classification than personnel security clearance, crews will be authorized emergency access to enough information to complete the mission. Approval authority rests with a general officer, wing commander, or wing commander equivalent and cannot be delegated.

6. Aircrew Briefings:

6.1. Crews should be briefed on the following:

6.1.1. Purpose of the mission.

6.1.2. Classification of the mission, cargo, and locations.

6.1.3. Itinerary, including confirmation of prior coordination for hazardous material as required by instrument flight rule (IFR) supplement and alternate airfields.

6.1.4. Cargo. TO 11N-20-11 line numbers should be included. Obtain line numbers from the fire department prior to loading. TO 11N-20-11 is a classified technical order that assigns an unclassified line number to each nuclear weapon.

6.1.5. "No lone zone," two-person concept, and security requirements.

6.1.6. Personnel authorized to sign for nuclear weapons at the destination.

6.1.7. Current intelligence, including threat analysis.

6.1.8. SWOG route of flight restrictions.

6.1.9. Airborne intercept (SWOG).

6.1.10. Jettisoning (SWOG).

7. Emergency Mission Kit:

7.1. The emergency mission kit is a set of unclassified tech orders that are part of the aircrew trip kit.

7.1.1. TO 1C-17A-16-1, Loading and Air Transport of Nuclear Weapon Cargo (Nonpalletized). Section VI, Emergency Logistic Movement Procedures, has tables of maximum tested loads and load plans for each item.

7.1.2. TO 1C-17A-16-2, Loading and Air Transport of Nuclear Weapon Cargo (Palletized). Section VI has tables that list the number of items for each pallet, shoring (under wheel or under frame), maximum tested load, pallet overhang, and comments for each item. The comments will refer crews to an appropriate figure if off-pallet tiedowns are required.

7.2. The dash-16-1 basically amplifies the dash-9. Crews may use any or all of the portions of the dash-16-1 and be in compliance with the dash-9.

7.3. Five copies of MC Form 37, C-17 Nuclear Floor Plan Worksheet, should be included in the mission kit. Blank forms are available through customer account representatives to the base publications distribution office. The emergency mission kit may contain a nuclear weapons template kit.

Section B—En Route Procedures

8. General. Use these procedures in addition to the normal operating procedures in the rest of this regulation.

8.1. Flight Plans. Enter "hazardous cargo" and the mission number in the "other information" section of the flight plan. If crews are carrying inert weapons, trainers, or other items that could be mistaken for real weapons by crash or rescue personnel in an emergency, enter "inert devices."

8.2. Radio Calls:

8.2.1. Departure (onload) base. Before starting the onload, tell the tower to notify the fire department the "onload is commencing." Prior to engine start, give the controlling agency (ground or tower) the parking location and approximate engine start time and announce there is hazardous cargo aboard the aircraft. Ensure a fire truck is standing by the aircraft for engine start.

8.2.2. En route or offload base. At least 30 minutes prior to landing, contact one of the following: base operations, command post, or control tower. Pass mission number and verify that the hazardous cargo information has been received. If the arrival base does not have hazardous cargo information, request the following be relayed immediately to the crash or fire protection agency and other support agencies as appropriate: Aircraft call sign, type, and mission number. Estimated time of arrival (ETA). Department of Transportation (DOT) explosives hazard class or division (normally 1.1). Net explosive weight (NEW). Line numbers from TO 11N-20-11 if requested. Obtain line numbers from the base fire department prior to starting the load at the onload location. A request for isolated parking and security forces to meet the aircraft.

9. Custody of Nuclear Cargo. Appoint a commisioned officer to be the courier officer (a copilot or third pilot is the preferred option). The courier officer is responsible for receipt, custody, security, safety, and delivery of nuclear weapons to authorized receivers.

9.1. Before accepting and loading nuclear weapons, the shipper briefs the crew (at least the AC, courier officer, and primary LM) on the nature and hazards of the cargo. If anyone on the crew does not get the briefing, give them the appropriate information before the flight. Ask the shipper to point out any specifics crews may need to handle the weapon, i.e. tiedown points, forklift stirrups, command disable system (CDS) procedures, etc. The specific procedures in sections II, III, and IV to the dash-16 can also provide helpful information on how to load specific weapons.

9.2. Time permitting, the courier and LM will inspect the cargo before accepting custody. The courier should have the shipper verify the integrity of a weapons case and replace any broken seals. Crews may be held responsible for damage at the receiving end if crews accept a damaged weapon without documentation. Document damage or broken seals on the DD Form 1911, Material Courier Receipt, prior to signing for the weapon.

9.3. The courier accepts custody of the weapon by signing the DD Form 1911 provided by the shipper. Use this form to transfer cargo custody to replacement couriers.

9.4. Release custody of the cargo only to a replacement courier or someone authorized to sign for nuclear material. Authorized receivers are identified by the shipper, by message, or through the AMC command and control system.

9.5. Time permitting, refer any questions through the TACC Command Center to TACC/DOOMS, DSN 576-2597 for resolution.

10. Security Procedures. The host base is responsible for providing security for the aircraft and the nuclear cargo. The courier officer (who has custody of the weapons) is the final authority on security matters; however, crews should follow the advice and procedures of the host security force as much as possible. If the situation is serious and crews must load and depart quickly, use judgment and dispense with the formalities. Prior to takeoff, the AC will ensure security support at all stations being transited that day through the TACC Command Center.

10.1. Home Station. Time permitting, conduct a thorough visual search of the aircraft for unauthorized explosives or stowaways. Use a bomb detection dog if available. If time is critical, do not delay the mission to "sanitize" the aircraft.

10.2. Onload Base. The host base should set up a restricted area, normally with ropes and stanchions, around the aircraft.

10.2.1. Entry Control. Use one entry point to maintain strict control of entry into the area. The entry controller will have a roster of all personnel allowed to enter. Use a copy of the flight orders for the aircrew. Instruct the entry controller to coordinate with the aircrew courier before allowing anyone into the area. EXCEPTION: Allow the weapons convoy to enter the restricted area without delay.

10.2.2. "No lone zone." Do not allow anyone to be alone in the restricted area or aircraft when nuclear weapons are present (inside either the area or the aircraft). The purpose of a "no lone zone" is to prevent any one person from tampering with a nuclear weapon. The easiest way to enforce a "no lone zone" is to always be in pairs inside the restricted area (for example, two aircrew members, two shippers, or one aircrew member and one shipper).

10.3. Inflight. Maintain the two-person concept throughout the flight. Do not allow anyone to be alone in the cargo compartment.

10.4. Arrival or En Route Base. As soon as the engines are shut down, deploy sufficient armed crew members around the aircraft to control access to the aircraft. Until the host base security force is established, the only personnel authorized near the aircraft are aircrew members and those support personnel necessary to install landing gear pins, ground power, and wheel chocks. Monitor these people at all times. Keep doors closed and be prepared for an immediate departure until the host base establishes security.

11. Emergency Procedures:

11.1. Security Emergencies. If confronted with a hostile force, crews may use deadly force to protect nuclear cargo. To the fullest extent possible crews will resist any attempt by a hostile force to capture a nuclear weapon. Consider any attack on an aircraft loaded with nuclear cargo, including a hijacking attempt, as an attack against the nuclear weapons. Should hostages be used to gain access to, as cover for removal, or to thwart recovery of a nuclear weapon; the welfare and safety of the hostages should be considered in determining actions to be taken. However, the presence of hostages shall not deter the taking of decisive, prompt, and effective action that includes the use of deadly force to recover a nuclear weapon and to prevent unauthorized access to or removal of a nuclear weapon. If crews are attacked, take the following actions:

11.1.1. Make an immediate takeoff, with the cargo if possible.

11.1.2. If the attack occurs during onloading or offloading, load the weapons as fast as possible, even if improper procedures must be used. Ensure effective cargo restraint and take off immediately.

11.1.3. Some weapons have a CDS that internally destroys the capability of a weapon to achieve a significant nuclear yield. The CDS will be used when capture of a weapon is imminent.

11.1.4. Aircrews will not use emergency destruct procedures on nuclear weapons. Emergency destruction (ED) of weapons by shaped charges requires SECDEF approval and will be accomplished by qualified personnel who have the capability to receive, authenticate, and carry out ED orders. When two properly identified shipper or receiver personnel concurrently request custody of the cargo for ED purposes, release the cargo using appropriate custody transfer procedures.

11.2. Jettisoning Nuclear Cargo. The LM will identify which cargo is and is not jettisonable according to the dash-1. In an emergency, the aircraft commander bears a moral obligation to jettison cargo or crash-land where the least amount of damage will result. Use the CDS, if applicable, prior to jettisoning or crash-landing. Record the coordinates of each jettisoned item. Observe the jettison restrictions in the SWOG.

11.3. Landing in Foreign Countries. Be prudent and keep things very low key. If confronted with demands to board or inspect the aircraft, refer to the status of United States military aircraft in the Department of Defense Foreign Clearance Guide, which states: "United States military aircraft are sovereign instrumentalities. When cleared to overfly or land in a foreign territory, it is United States policy to assert that military aircraft are entitled to the privileges and immunities which customarily are accorded warships. These privileges and immunities include, in the absence of stipulations to the contrary, exemption from duties and taxation; immunity from search, seizure, and inspections (including customs and safety inspection); or other exercise or jurisdiction by the host nation over the aircraft, personnel, equipment, or cargo on board. Air Force aircraft commanders will not authorize search, seizure, inspection, or similar exercises of jurisdiction enumerated above by foreign authorities except by direction of HQ USAF or the American Embassy in the country concerned." Diplomatically, but firmly, refuse any requests to board or inspect, and get help through any available United States channel. Flash priority is authorized.

12. Maintenance on Aircraft Loaded with Nuclear Cargo:

12.1. Maintenance on an aircraft loaded with nuclear weapons must not violate safety rules normally used with aircraft loaded with conventional explosives. As much as possible, have maintenance and servicing completed before loading nuclear weapons on the aircraft. Do not allow maintenance, such as the following, that could increase the possibility of a fire:

12.1.1. Using flame or uncontrolled heat-producing items.

12.1.2. Repairs on the fuel system, cell, and tank or other maintenance where significant fuel spills are likely to result from disconnected lines, ruptured components, etc.

12.2. Aircraft will not be jacked. The temporary lifting of one set of landing gear for minor maintenance (tire change, brake change, bogie maintenance, etc.) is not considered jacking.

12.13.3. Do not refuel, defuel, or service oxygen while loading or offloading nuclear weapons. Have a fire truck standing by at the aircraft during refueling, defueling, or oxygen servicing.

12.4. All maintenance on the aircraft while nuclear cargo is on board will be monitored by the loadmaster, copilot or crew chief.



Director of Operations



Director, Plans and Programs


This guide describes recommended actions for courier and crew during emergency nuclear airlift operations. It is designed for those missions diverted en route to an onload site where the crew does not have the opportunity to receive a formal tanker airlift control element (TALCE), home station, or command post briefing. However, even if a formal briefing is given, this guide may be used as a refresher. Security, time, and ground support may not be sufficient to allow using this guide during emergency operations. In such cases, the courier and crew must discuss all factors and use their judgment on the best course of action to accomplish the mission. Paramount in all decisions is the safety and security of nuclear cargo.

A 1. Prior to Onload (either at home station or enroute to the onload site):

A 1.1. Review crew responsibilities and the procedures to be used during onload (loading method, security setup, cargo receipt, two-person concept). Do not discuss classified information over interphone.

A 1.2. If time permits, review the applicable section of the dash-16-1. Using the dash-16-1 is not mandatory, but it may provide useful loading information for the cargo, such as parking and rolling shoring requirements and tiedown patterns.

A 1.3. En route and 30 minutes prior to landing, contact the onload site and notify them of estimated time of arrival (ETA). Make support requirements known (fuel, materials handling equipment [MHE], transportation, security, etc.) at this time.

A 2. Arrival and Onload:

A 2.1. Contact the senior security official and comply with the following: If crews have nuclear cargo on board, establish a restricted area and keep everyone off the aircraft. Provide armed security until the host security forces assume responsibility.

A 2.1.1. A restricted area will be established around the aircraft. Ropes and stanchions are normally used to denote the restricted area. However, depending on the situation, crews may see additional guards, security vehicles, etc., rather than ropes. Be flexible. The key is whether the host base is furnishing enough security to protect the nuclear cargo.

A 2.1.2. A single entry control point will be established.

A 2.2. The entry controller must allow only those individuals into the restricted area who have been cleared by the courier. Tell the entry controller which individuals are authorized into the area and, time permitting, back it up in writing using crew orders, entry authorization lists (EAL) and prepared shipper lists.

A 2.3. After security is established, verify shipper identification and accomplish the following with the shipper: (NOTE: Accomplish the shipper briefing and cargo inspection if time and the security environment permit.)

A 2.3.1. Shipper briefing to include the following:

A Nature, hazard, and safety regarding shipment of nuclear weapons cargo, including line numbers from TO 11N-20-11, DOT class, DOT explosive hazard class or division, and net explosive weight (NEW).

A Courier escort requirements.

A Items requiring the two-person concept.

A Items that are command disable system (CDS) equipped and if the CDS has been activated (weapon not operational).

A Items exposed to an abnormal environment or not operational.

A Special handling or unique requirements particular to the cargo.

A Individuals required to assist during onload or offload. Pass the information to the entry controller.

A Authorized recipients at offload station. Get this information in writing.

NOTE: If the primary LM and the AC were not present for the shipper briefing, the courier must brief them on the applicable items.

A 2.3.2. Cargo inspection:

A The primary LM, courier, and shipper will inspect the cargo for broken seals, exterior damage, security to carrier, wheel and casters, tiedown points, etc. If discrepancies are found, have the shipper annotate them on the DD Form 1911, Material Courier Receipt.

NOTE: Prior to accepting the cargo, ensure everything is ready for the onload.

A After the inspection, accept custody of the cargo by signing the DD Form 1911.

A 2.4. During onload or offload monitor the operation, assist as necessary, and ensure personnel comply with the two-person concept.

A 2.5. After the onload is complete and the crew is ready for engine start, the armed courier will deplane and tell the host base security to break down security and maintain surveillance until aircraft departure. The courier will monitor access to the crew entrance door during engine start if possible.

A 3. En Route to Offload:

A 3.1. Maintain the two-person concept.

A 3.2. Notify the TACC Command Center of departure time and ETA at the offload station. Be prepared to encode this information.

A 3.3. If time permits, review the security and handling procedures to be used at the offload station. Do not discuss classified information over the interphone.

A 3.4. Contact the agency specified in flight information publications (command post, base operations, or tower) 30 minutes prior to landing; ask if they have hazardous cargo information. If they don't, pass the following information:

A 3.4.1. Call sign, type aircraft, and mission number.

A 3.4.2. ETA

A 3.4.3. Line numbers from TO 11N-20-11 and DD Form 1911.

A 3.4.4. If line numbers were not provided, pass on the following information:

A DOD explosive hazard class or division (normally 1.1).


A 3.4.5. A request for isolated parking and for their security forces to meet the aircraft.

A 3.4.6. Inert devices, if applicable.

A 4. Offload:

A 4.1. Upon arrival, deploy the armed courier (minimum) and team (if required). Provide security until the host security forces assume responsibility and establish the restricted area. Ensure security is provided according to paragraph A 2.1. Keep all doors closed and all ground personnel off the aircraft until security is established.

A 4.2. Maintain the two-person concept.

A 4.3. Brief the receiver on the cargo, and transfer custody.

A 4.4. Briefing includes:

A Nature, hazard, and safety regarding shipment of the nuclear weapon cargo, including line numbers from TO 11N-20-11, DOT explosive hazard class or division, DOT class, and NEW.

A Courier escort requirements.

A Items requiring the two-person concept.

A Items that are CDS-equipped and if the CDS has been activated (weapon not operational).

A Items exposed to an abnormal environment or not operational.

A Special handling or unique requirements applicable to the cargo.

A Individuals required to assist during the offload. Pass this information to the entry controller.

A 4.3.2. The receiver and courier will conduct an inspection of the cargo for broken seals, exterior damage, etc. If discrepancies are found and they have not been previously noted, the courier will annotate them on the DD Form 1911.

A 4.3.3. Transfer custody of cargo. (Receiver signs DD Form 1911).

A 4.4. Offload cargo