Tag Archives: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

U.S. B-1, B-52 bombers acted as non-traditional ISR platforms during a big drug-interdiction operation

For one week U.S. Air Force’s Southern Command undertook a surge of its operations against the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States, using bombers flying as NTISR (non-traditional intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) aircraft.

U.S. Southern Command oversees an area covering more than 40 million square miles, a region whose major challenge is the war against trafficking of illicit drugs into the US.

For one week in August 2016, the Southern Command surged its anti-drug smuggling operations with bombers, KC-135 aerial refuelers, E-8 Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) and E-3 Sentry AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft that expanded their work supporting the United States Coast Guard and the JIATF-South (Joint Inter Agency Task Force South), the U.S. agency leading the fight against narco-traffickers.

Dubbed the “Big Week”, the operation saw the involvement of B-1 Lancers and B-52 Stratofortresses that were assigned the difficult task of flying over large areas of the ocean in search of suspected trafficker boats acting as non-traditional Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) platforms.

The heavy bombers contributed to the surveillance mission sharing the data collected by the targeting systems and onboard sensors with multiple Naval-Coast Guard assets, something they usually don’t train too often.

Still, NTISR is a sort-of secondary mission for all the U.S. bombers performing on-call CAS (Close Air Support) in Afghanistan or Iraq, where they augment traditional ISR efforts by means of their targeting pods with downlink capabilities.

The operation resulted in six metric tons of cocaine seized or disrupted, illegal drug which never made it into the United States.

Stratotankers were important to expand Big Week’s operational reach keeping Air Force bombers in the air and adding critical hours to the surveillance mission, whereas intelligence personnel provided the required informational flow between aircraft, maritime, and intelligence assets so that, once detected, drugs could be taken off the water.

Big Week allowed the joint interdiction team to test their training in a real-world environment, cooperating with agencies and in a scenario and area they don’t typically operate out of.

According to the U.S. Air Force”Big Week was a vast operation, meant to show how members of different agencies and services could operate in a joint environment against a common threat. Big Week proved that a determined and organized drug interdiction team could effectively challenge illicit drug trafficking into the United States.”

 

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Rare footage provides interesting details about the world’s most advanced F-16s flown by UAE in the Air War on ISIS

The UAE Air Force takes part in the air war on Daesh with the most advanced F-16 in the world. And here’s some interesting footage.

Filmed from aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, the video below shows United Arab Emirates F-16 Block 60+ Desert Falcons refueling during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition’s air war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, on Dec. 16, 2016.

The clip includes some rare close-up footage that provides interesting details about the payload of the world’s most advanced F-16s flown by the UAE Air Force in the anti-Daesh campaign.

There appear to be two configurations (both featuring CFTs, Sniper targeting pod and two drops tanks): the first one, includes 2x AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 2x GBU-12 LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), whereas the pilot wears the JHMCS (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System); the second one shows the Desert Falcons with 2x AIM-120B AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and 4x Mk-82 or BLU-111A/B “dumb bombs” (although they can’t be easily identified, hence they could also be Joint Direct Attack Munitions…).

Both F-16s seem to wear the national flag on the tail: in 2015, two F-16 Block 60 deployed to Jordan to support the anti-ISIS air war without the UAE flag, something we explained with their participation in the air strikes on Islamist militias in Libya in 2014.

Since 2005, the UAE Air Force operates the Block 60 F-16E/F a variant dubbed “Desert Falcon” described as “the most advanced F-16 variant in the world” for being equipped with a Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 AESA (active electronically scanned antenna) radar.

Considered “a half-generation ahead of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52+” the Block 60s, that the UAE Air Force has also flown in 2011’s Libya Air War, are also equipped with Northrop Grumman’s AN/ASQ-32 IFTS (Internal FLIR Targeting System) that is coupled up with the FLIR sensor on top of the nose in front of the cockpit, and with an Electronic Warfare that includes the Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite Radar Warning Receiver and the AN/ALQ-165 Self-Protection Jammer.

 

The story of the KC-135 tankers that saved another KC-135 flying for 13.5 hours in support of a CAS mission over Afghanistan

After being unexpectedly requested to refuel a CAS (Close Air Support) aircraft targeting a high-level enemy leader, a KC-135 found itself “below bingo.”

Although they usually offload fuel to other aircraft, aerial refuelers may have to take gas from other tankers to extend their “on station time” or to be able to return to their destination, as happened some months ago to a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan.

The U.S. tanker was in fact involved to a really long mission, so much so it had to be refueled by other KC-135s three times.

According to Lt. Steve Hartig, 350th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, the original task was to refuel two tactical jets flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Nothing special then, besides an initial contact with another KC-135 to get some fuel and extend the mission.

“This was my first deployment as a receiver-qualified pilot,” said Capt. Kirk Evans, 384th ARS pilot in a USAF release. “Receiving fuel from a tanker [at a high altitude was pretty challenging]. The air is thinner, and I had less control authority over the aircraft because the engines are less responsive.”

After completing the operation, the Stratotanker returned to its racetrack and continue its refueling mission.

In accordance with the original task, it refueled two aircraft but before heading back to its home base, it got a radio call to relocate and potentially refuel a CAS aircraft needing assistance because an alert refueling plane would not make it in time.

The receiver requested assistance and the KC-135 rushed to help. But the AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operation was not previously planned and the tactical scenario as well as the type of aircraft made for an “unorthodox situation.”

The two aircraft made contact far below the surrounding peaks and in a descent, to compensate for the receiver’s slower speed (read below for more about the CAS aircraft.)

To make things more complicated, the receiving crew informed the Stratotanker that they needed 18,000 pounds of fuel whereas the KC-135 had only 7,000 pounds before going “below bingo”, that is to say, below the fuel state required to return home.

Still, the tanker offloaded the requested amount of fuel to the receiver so that it could successfully continue its mission: going after a high-level enemy leader on the ground.

Now, the KC-135 was 12,000 pounds “below bingo.”

Unable to return home the Stratotanker aircrew started contemplating other options, the first of those was diverting to a nearby airfield. There were two airbases within their reach: one was pretty unsafe, as it was getting attacked frequently, whereas the other one was under a thunderstorm.

“We were authorized to divert to a closer air base when we were notified there happened to be another tanker on their way that had a little extra gas,” said Evans.

Hence, the KC-135s headed towards each other for a second “buddy refueling” operation: the “below bingo” KC-135 received enough gas to meet the alert Stratotanker halfway, so it didn’t need to divert.

After a third “buddy refuel,” the Stratotanker was eventually able to return back to its deployment base after 13 and half hours!

The efforts of the KC-135 crew paid off, enabling two different missions, the second performed by the CAS aircraft that was able to “terminate” a high-level enemy leader.

Note: Although the U.S. Air Force did not disclose the type of receiver involved in the CAS mission, based on the “speed difference” and altitude, it is safe to assume it was an AC-130 gunship.

kc-135-below-bingo-2

Image credit: U.S. 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)

 

U.S. F/A-18s, AV-8Bs and EA-6Bs certified for refueling from Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter components have obtained the certification to refuel from the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A tankers.

One of the four Italian Air Force KC-767A aircraft has completed the testing required to certify the U.S. Navy fighter component to perform AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations with the new tanker.

The certification activities took place at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, home of VX-23, VX-31 and Marine Aircraft Group 14, where the Italian tanker, belonging to the 14° Stormo (Wing) Strategic Transport and Air Refueling from Pratica di Mare, deployed on Aug. 19.

According to the ItAF, the whole operation was completed in 10 weeks, six of those were focused on flight testing with U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Hornets, Super Hornets, Harriers and Prowlers.

Roughly one year ago, the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Flying Test Unit) deployed to the U.S. with the KC-767A to carry out the first certification of a USAF tanker with stereoscopic vision system (Remote Vision System – RVS). Furthermore, in the same period, a KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 14° Stormo became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29, 2015.

The KC-767A is a specific variant obtained from the commercial aircraft Boeing 767-200ER “Extended Range.” Equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10), and three hose and drogue stations, the tanker is be able to refuel both aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle and those with a refueling probe.

AUGUST 25 2016 NAS Patuxent River MD. VX-23 SD402 ITALIAN KC767 AR Testing. Pilot MAJ Mathew Decoursey. USMC Project ID160825-N-UZ648. FOR PUBLIC RELEASE Official USN Photographs by Erik Hildebrandt

Interestingly, whilst in a KC-135 the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 the operators move the boom using a joystick and watching the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s rear fuselage. The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System that provides high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.

In May 2011, few weeks after being delivered, the KC-767 had its “baptism of fire” in Libya, boosting NATO’s AAR capability by supporting Italian Eurofighter, Tornado IDS and ECR, and AMX involved in Operation Unified Protector.

Since then, the fleet has been certified for refueling with several allies: it supported British Eurofighters to LIMA 13 airshow, conducted collective aerial refueling certification and testing with Gripen and Rafale fighter jets and escorted the Spanish EF-18 and Eurofighter Typhoons to Konya, in Turkey, for Anatolian Eagle 2014-2.

The KC-767A are currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, flying under the command of Task Force Air Kuwait, as part of the Italian “Prima Parthica” operation.

The Italian Air Force KC767A aircraft are a valuable NATO asset that often support allied aircraft as part of the European Air Transport Command (EATC).

Similar to the KC-767A is also the KC-46 Pegasus, a military variant of the Boeing 767 destined to replace the U.S. Air Force fleet of KC-135E Stratotanker refuelers in the coming years.

AUGUST 26 2016 NAS Patuxent River MD. VX-23 SD402 ITALIAN KC767 AR Testing. Pilot MAJ Mathew Decoursey. USMC Project ID160825-N-UZ648. FOR PUBLIC RELEASE Official USN Photographs by Erik Hildebrandt

Image credit: USN Photographs by Erik Hildebrandt

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