In photos: B-1B bomber refueled on its way to Syria air strike

A B-1B Lancer was refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker enroute to its targets in Syria.

On Sept. 27, a U.S. Air Force B-1B “Lancer” from 7 Bomb Wing, deployed at Al Udeid, Qatar, was part of a large coalition strike package that was engaging ISIS targets in Syria.

Air strikes in Syria

On its way to the target area, the supersonic strategic bomber was refueled mid-air by a KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the aerial refuelers (also based at Al Udeid) that have supported the U.S. air campaign both in Iraq and Syria, refueling coalition planes, during both daylight sorties and at night.

Air strikes in Syria

Here is a sequence of images, taken from the boomer point of view, showing the “Bone” approach the tanker, be refueled and then break away enroute to its target.

Air strikes in Syria

Sometimes, aerial refueling is required to extend the aircraft range enabling persistent ops in a certain area of operation: on Oct. 7, a single B-1B was spotted circling for more than 1 hour over Kobane, in northern Syria close to the Turkish border, during air strikes against ISIS.

Air strikes in Syria

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. What’s with all the scratches on it’s nose, is that just from the refueling probe? I didn’t think they missed with the probe that often.

    • That was the first thought in my head too. My car bumpers look a lot better than the nose of that aircraft. I think it’s time to budget for some new paint.

      • They’ve been flying the BONE for about 30 years. I don’t know how often it gets repainted but it probably gets refueled on just about every flight. If one contact out of 100 isn’t perfect, well, you get a nose that looks like the one in the photos. Turbulence is tough and the aerodynamic effects of flying two large aircraft within 20 feet of each other makes refueling a sporty proposition. Those boom operators who refuel stealth planes like the B-2 and F-22 have to be specially trained and certified to prevent damaging the RAM coatings.

        • lol, not really any special training at least when I was a boom you just needed a contact with the 117 but nothing special for b-2 or f22. You were required to report any contact outside the receptacle though.

        • Most certainly – on all accounts there is plenty of turbulence and plenty of misses but if that is just a couple and not a long build up there are some seriously unlucky boom operators.

    • I showed that photo to a former boom operator that I work with. He said, “Yeah. That’s because the pilots like to fly into the boom instead of the operator flying the boom into the receptacle. Reinforced windshield for a reason.”

    • I love it! Means they are doing work.

      I imagine if you get a pressure change or wind gust at the point of contact you are bound to get a little off-center.

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