Watch A KC-135 Stratotanker Fly Low Level In The Mach Loop For The First Time

KC-135 Mach Loop
The KC-135 entering Mach Loop (screenshot from the video by @ElwynR embedded below)

A crazy cool video shows something you don’t see too often: a KC-135 tanker in the famous “Mach Loop” low flying area.

Certain scarcely populated areas of the UK, known as ‘Low Flying Areas’ (LFAs) such as LFA 14 in Scotland, LFA 17 in the Lake District, and LFA 7 in North West Wales, serve as prime locations for RAF training exercises at altitudes as low as 250 feet.

LFA 7, which is also used by U.S. military units along with allied air forces and aerospace industries, is characterized by a series of valleys flanked by steep mountain sides, with peaks rising to approximately 1,000 meters. This terrain allows pilots to conduct training circuits at extremely low altitudes, navigating through the rugged landscape.

Aviation enthusiasts in the UK have affectionately dubbed LFA 7 the “Mach Loop,” named after the town of Machynlleth located at the southernmost point of the circuit.

Recently, on May 9, 2024, the “Mach Loop” achieved another milestone as a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing based at RAF Mildenhall, UK, conducted a pass through this picturesque valley area, adding to the list of aircraft types that have navigated this challenging training route.

The following video, shot by the popular Youtuber ElwynR shows QUID 43, entering the low flying area and marking the first time a KC-135 flew the Mach Loop.

As reported by KeyAero, initially, the Stratotanker made use of Low Flying Area 4 (LFA 4) in western England before transitioning into LFA 7 in South Wales. The aircraft proceeded westward, coasting out along the shoreline before turning north over Cardigan Bay and heading inland towards North Wales. At approximately 18:25 hours, the KC-135R with tail number 59-1511/D entered the Mach Loop from the northern approach, traversing a significant portion of the circuit within LFA 7. Upon completion of the loop in LFA 7, the aircraft climbed out and headed back eastward.

Interestingly, some images were shot at QUID 43 as it flew low level in the Mach Loop (much lower than the video above).

The low-level flying missions represent a recent focus for RAF Mildenhall’s 100th ARW, with their inaugural sortie occurring on December 15, 2023. As for other types of military “wide bodies”, being able to fly low level is important to evade hostile radar detection and facilitate closer support to frontline operations with enhanced fuel capacity for receivers.

H/T to our friend @Saint1Mil for the heads up!

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.