Monthly Archives: October 2016

The last ever operative flight of the legendary F-104 Starfighter, 12 years ago today

On Oct. 31, 2004, the Italian Air Force flew the last operative mission of the iconic F-104, the “missile with a man in it.”

Of the 15 nations that had one of 2,580 Lockheed F-104 Starfighter produced (including prototypes) in their fleet, Italy is the one that more than any other, linked its fortune to this extraordinary interceptor. Employed also in the ground attack (both conventional and strike) and in tactical reconnaissance roles, the “Spillone” (“Hatpin”) marked, for better or worse, the daily life of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF), influencing its ambitions, choices and abilities for almost half a century.

Throughout this period of time, seven different versions of the F-104 were employed by the Italian Air Force: the F-104G, RF-104G, TF-104G, F-104S, F-104S/ASA, F-104S/ASA-M and TF-104G-M, equipping ten different Wings and fifteen Squadrons (other than the Reparto Sperimentale Volo) for slightly less than one million flight hours.

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Although its very last flight with the Aeronautica Militare (the last air force to operate the Starfighter) took place few months later (as described in the book “Italian Starfighters” by this Author), the F-104 wrote the final chapter of its extraordinary career within the ItAF on October 30th, 2004, when the aircraft undertook the last QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) shift after being on alert, “ready in five” (ready to take off in 5 minutes from the alarm) for 40 years.

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The 24-hour QRA shift for the 10° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 9° Stormo (Wing) at Grazzanise airbase, ended on Oct. 31 at 08.25 local time, with a Tango Scramble (a Scramble for training purposes) carried out by Maj. Aurelio Covotta, commander of the 10° Gruppo, and by Lt. Rolando Pellegrini, of the 9° Gruppo.

After the two armed aircraft had landed, the homage to this undisputed star of +40 years of history of the ItAF was entrusted to a very special formation whose leader was Gen. Pietro Valente, commander of the “Aquila” Division; number 2 Col. Vittorio Iannotta, commander of the 4° Stormo; number 3, Col. Gianpaolo Miniscalco, commander of the 9° Stormo; number 4, Maj. Giovanni Balestri, commander of the 20° Gruppo; and number 5, Gen. Settimo Caputo, Deputy Chief of Staff of Comando Squadra Aerea, who proudly wore on his flight suit the patch attesting 3500 flying hours on the Starfighter!

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The aircraft (MM6890/4-50, MM6934/9-31, MM6930/9·99, MM6876/9-39, MM6850/4-16) took off in rapid sequence and engaged the sky field some minutes later to perform a series of fly-bys that were greeted with deep emotion and with a hint of sadness by the staff of the 9° Stormo and by those who had gathered along the taxiways of the operational area of the 10° Gruppo. After the last fly-by, the aircraft landed.

All except one: the 9·99 of Col. Miniscalco, that flew some high-speed passes in front of the public before the last pass at transonic speed with a vertical climb that preceded the landing that marked the official end of the longstanding permanence of the F-104 in the front-line units of the Aeronautica Militare.

After Oct. 31, 2004 the Starfighter continued to fly on the Italian skies for little less than a year with the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, mainly as a chase plane for the unit’s Eurofighter Typhoons.

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Last U.S. Air Force Phantoms make rare appearance flying through the Star Wars Canyon!

Awesome video and photographs of the last USAF Phantoms thundering through the famous Jedi Transition.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25 two USAF McDonnell Douglas QF-4E Phantom II’s made passes through “Star Wars Canyon” (Jedi Transition) in Death Valley, CA. The lead Phantom (gray and orange) was piloted by Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and the second jet (green camo) was piloted by Lt. Col. (Ret) Jim “WAM” Harkins.

It was a very rare treat to see the QF-4s pass through the canyon. The Phantoms were in transit from NAS Point Mugu, CA to Hill AFB, UT and made the two passes at about 350 knots. Aviation enthusiasts are used to seeing modern and nimble aircraft such as F/A-18E/Fs and F-16s pass through the canyon and the QF-4Es did well, maneuvering aggressively in the canyon confines.

Actually even a C-17 made a series of cool passes lately

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Though bearing the markings of the Tyndall AFB based 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (ATRS) the QF-4Es hail from Detachment 1, 82nd ATRS, based at Holloman AFB. The 82nd ATRS at Tyndall AFB has fully converted to the QF-16. The QF-4Es captured are two of seven remaining QF-4s capable of manned flight (an additional handful of remaining aircraft are capable of “unmanned” flight only).

The F-4 entered service with the US Navy in 1961, followed by the USMC and the USAF. The aircraft remained in service with the USAF through 1996 when it was retired. Subsequently many Phantoms were converted to service as manned and unmanned targets for weapons training with various USAF and DoD programs, including the White Sands Missile Range. The F-4 is one of the most successful multi-role fighter aircraft ever produced. Over 5,000 F-4s of various models were built and served in combat and keeping the peace with a variety of Air Forces around the world.

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The days of manned QF-4 flight are short and the aircraft have been making a “pharewell tour” throughout the US, appearing at several air shows and bases. The aircraft’s last manned flight is planned for December 21 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. It is anticipated a four ship will take to the skies with roaring ‘burners, break the speed of sound, make several crowd pleasing passes – and then back to earth.

Contact the Public Affairs Officer at 49th Wing, Holloman AFB for more information on this “last phlight” media event.

Image and video credit: Johnson Yang

Johnson Yang is a photojournalist who lives and works out of S. California. Johnson previously served in the Taiwanese Airborne and is a regular contributor to Asia Pacific Defense Magazine.

Poland facing Maritime SAR capability gap after Helicopter Tender cancellation?

Maritime Search And Rescue in Poland at risk?

With Poland scrapping the helicopter deal with the Airbus Helicopters company and opening a new procurement procedure (the aim of which is to meet the “Urgent Operational Requirements” of the Polish Army, with most of the emphasis placed on acquisition of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters for the special operations component) a close observation of the helicopter debate taking place in Poland may only lead to one grim conclusion: maritime SAR capabilities remaining at disposal of the Polish Navy, responsible for conducting the SAR operations in the Baltic are not going to last long.

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However, SAR issue has not been brought up in the general discourse, thus the public has no awareness whatsoever of the critical circumstances.

On Oct. 24, 2016 an additional release has been issued, suggesting that the Ministry of Defence of Poland decided to place the maritime SAR helicopters acquisition at a similar level of priority, as the one dealing with the rotorcraft for the Special Forces. Nonetheless, it is worth highlighting some interesting things.

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Even now, there is a burning need to prolong the lifetimes of the operated Mi-14 Haze airframes, which currently serve as the primary heavy SAR platform within the Polish Area of Responsibility in the Baltic region. The first of the such Russian helicopters, manufactured at the beginning of 1980s, is going to be withdrawn in two years.

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Typically, a military helicopter is capable of staying in active service for 30 years, as Paweł Malicki, a Polish freelance military journalist noted in a recent podcast. This means that prolonging the lifetime of the rotary-wing aircraft may no longer be feasible, in the light of the emerging structural problems.

This is amplified by the fact that Polish Mi-14PŁ Hazes, which are an ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) platform, primarily, have been adapted and converted to fit in the SAR role by widening the side door, to make it easier for the rescue crew to operate the hoist.

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This had a significant impact on the structure of the airframes; moreover, it is said that the helicopters in question face vibration problems. Remaining SAR sorties are flown by the W-3RM platform, which is lighter, but also has limited spatial capabilities and faces fuel and load constraints.

Until Sept. 30, 2015, the SAR duty and QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was held at Babie Doły and Darlowo bases (with the former one located in Gdynia, in the region of the Gdansk Bay, while the latter one is placed in the very center of the Polish coastline). Since five W-3 helicopters were transferred to the PZL Świdnik facility for maintenance and overhaul, only a single airframe is used to fulfill the SAR commitments – and two helicopters are used for that purpose interchangeably: the W-3RM Anakonda and Mi-14PŁ/R. The W-3 helicopters from Świdnik were not returned, and the overhauls are significantly delayed.

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Moreover, Babie Doły base is no longer an active location from where QRA SAR sorties are being flown – the base is used solely for refueling, stopover and hospital transport purposes of the potential victims of accidents at sea. The aforesaid situation has critical ramifications, since the mission endurance time for the rotorcraft is significantly shortened, which also limits the options of providing effective help and assistance, should any incident occur.

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The above mentioned situation may not only affect those in need of help but also the SAR crews, flying the outdated aircraft. Potentially, solutions could be found in a single source procurement of new or second-hand specialized SAR helicopters.

The crisis, that would surely emerge should no steps be taken to acquire a capable maritime SAR platform, leads to emergence of a context, in which Poland would face condemnation on the part of the European Union, since provisioning of SAR services within the given AOR (Area Of Responsibility) and retention of the capability within that scope constitutes a political obligation, to say the least.

On a more mundane level, this creates a danger for anyone traveling using the Baltic Sea routes.

One of the possible solutions to the problem that could be applied to utilize Swedish or Danish, or German SAR fleet and assets, however this would require significant expenditure, paid in Euro or Swedish Krona. Secondly, Polish reputation in the international arena, already damaged by lack of serious approach towards the helicopter procurement (canceling the negotiation with Airbus and creating a single source procurement procedure involving the same contractors after one year, on grounds which are potentially of political nature), is going to face further deterioration, with Warsaw not being able to maintain its SAR assets.

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Finally, lack of the SAR assets would mean that shipowners will probably wonder whether they should use the Polish ports or sail towards their German counterparts instead, in order to avoid risking the lives of their sailors. Maritime traffic within the Polish ports has been on the rise recently, however, should any risk exist for the crew, the shipowners will become hesitant, especially in the autumn and winter seasons, when chances of surviving a longer period in the waters of the Baltic Sea are close to zero.

Still, the latest steps undertaken by the Polish government seem to suggest that the problem is not being disregarded, and that the authorities are aware of is.

As Dziennik Zbrojny recently noted, within the canceled tender, 8 helicopters were to be received by the Polish 7th Special Operations Squadron, and 13 were to come in SAR/CSAR variant which would be operated by both the CSAR component of the air force, as well as the SAR unit of the Polish Navy.

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Image Credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

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The Italian Air Force has rolled out a Tornado in brand new, awesome special livery

An eye-catching special colored Tornado IDS for the 60th anniversary of 311° Gruppo.

On Oct. 27, the Italian Air Force officially rolled out a Tornado IDS in a special livery at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, Italy.

The aircraft, serialled CSX 7041, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the 311° Gruppo (Squadron) of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo), the Italian Air Force Test Wing responsible for the development, testing and validation of all the flying “hardware”: aircraft, sensors, weapons, etc.

The new “special color” was the highlight of a ceremony that also included the flying display of the C-27J Spartan and the Eurofighter Typhoon: the unit is indeed responsible of the aerial displays of all the ItAF aircraft.

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Our contributor Alessandro Borsetti attended the small airshow at Pratica di Mare and took the photographs you can find in this post (top air-to-air image is a courtesy photo by the Italian Air Force).

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Image credit: Alessandro Borsetti (top: Italian Air Force)

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Air War on ISIS: coalition aircraft refuel from US KC-135 over Iraq

Take a look at the most beautiful photographs shot from inside U.S. Air Force KC-135s during recent aerial refueling missions over Iraq.

50-year old KC-135 Stratotankers are acting as “force multipliers” over Iraq, refueling coalition aircraft flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS.

The following shots were taken during different missions flown by the aerial refuelers of the 340th EARS (Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron), a provisional U.S. Air Force units, equipped with several KC-135R/T tankers and based at Al Udeid, Qatar.

As you can see, U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Hornets, U.S. Air Force C-17s, F-15E Strike Eagles and E-3A Sentry, as well as French Air Force Rafales were refueled during their combat missions in the last few weeks.

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fly in formation after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A French Air Force Rafale receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 17, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A pilot from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker in support of an Operation Inherent Resolve mission over Iraq Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A pilot from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker in support of an Operation Inherent Resolve mission over Iraq Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A pilot from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker in support of an Operation Inherent Resolve mission over Iraq Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A pilot from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker in support of an Operation Inherent Resolve mission over Iraq Oct 6, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator, awaits his receivers for fuel over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator, awaits his receivers for fuel over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet flies off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq after refuel Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet flies off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq after refuel Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling drogue over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling drogue over Iraq Sept. 28, 2016. Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refueled U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets over Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. and more than 60 coalition partners work together to eliminate Daesh and the threat they pose to Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

A C-17 Globemaster III approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker while performing a refueling sortie over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A C-17 Globemaster III approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker while performing a refueling sortie over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A C-17 Globemaster III approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A C-17 Globemaster III approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 16, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 16, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A boom operator from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to refuel an E-3 Sentry while flying in a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

A boom operator from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to refuel an E-3 Sentry while flying in a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Crewmembers from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

Crewmembers from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)