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(LEAD) S. Korea sends rotational troops to UAE using aerial tanker

15:07 June 30, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 2, 12; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea mobilized one of its aerial tankers Tuesday to send rotational troops to the United Arab Emirates, the defense ministry said.

The Air Force's KC-330, named Cygnus, left Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, earlier in the day carrying the 17th batch of the 170-strong Akh Unit, according to the ministry.

It is the first time for the aerial tanker to carry out the troop transport mission since being put into service last year.

On its way back, the aircraft will bring home the 16th batch of the unit Friday.

The newly dispatched members underwent a virus test and all tested negative, the ministry said.

"Despite the COVID-19 situation, the rotation could take place in a timely manner through close bilateral coordination, which was possible thanks to the special relationship between the two countries and the confidence in South Korea's quarantine measures," the defense ministry said in a release.

The unit is tasked with training the Middle East country's special forces since 2011. "Akh" means "brother" in Arabic.

"The deployment of the aerial tanker not only helps save costs, it ensures the safety of troops," it added.

South Korea introduced four aerial tankers aimed at expanding its area of operations.

The KC-330, which measures 60.3 meters in width and 58.8 meters in length, can carry up to 245,000 pounds of fuel and is capable of refueling up to 10 F-15Ks or up to 20 KF-16s. In addition, it can carry 300 crewmembers and 47 tons of cargo.

The tanker can fly distances up to 15,320 kilometers, with a maximum flight altitude of 12,600 meters, according to the military.

Cygnus carried out its first overseas mission earlier this month when it brought home remains of 147 fallen service members from Hawaii.

Service members of South Korea's Akh Unit pose for a photo before heading to the United Arab Emirates aboard the KC-330 aerial tanker at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on June 30, 2020, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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