Tag Archives: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

French C-135FR Tanker Refuels U.S. Air Force B-52 Bomber Over Europe In Rare International Refueling Operation

This is something you don’t see too often: a U.S. Stratofortress bomber refueled by a foreign tanker.

On Sept. 25, a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, refueled from a French Air Force C-135FR belonging to the Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 2/91 “Bretagne” from Istres.

B-52 bombers from the 2nd BW are currently deployed to Europe for three weeks to support Bomber Assurance and Deterrence operations (BAAD).

A French air force KC-135 Stratotanker, refuels a B-52 Stratofortress over Europe Sept. 25, 2017. The Stratofortress is deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom in support of bomber assurance and deterrence operations. U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe. Bomber missions demonstrate the credibility and flexibility of the military’s forces to address today’s complex, dynamic and volatile global security environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)

Based on the footage released by the U.S. Air Force, the C-135FR involved in the refueling mission was the example 471/31-CB that was tracked online while flying over the Tyrrhenian Sea in bound to the refueling area over the Mediterranean Sea via Mode-S/ADS-B transponder (H/T to @CivMilAir for catching the tanker)

Part of the track followed by a FAF C-135FR during the Sept. 25 mission tracked via Mode-S. Image credit: @CivMilAir

Although U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe, the bombers are almost always refueled by U.S. Air Force KC-135s or KC-10s.

Still, B-52s can be refueled by other types of tankers for testing or operative purposes.

For instance, an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 tanker (s/n 14-01) refueled a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52H-150-BW Stratofortress (s/n 60-0036) over California’s Mojave Desert on Mar. 5, 2007, as part of the tanker’s flying boom testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California (USA).

An Italian Air Force Boeing 767 tanker refuels an Edwards B-52 over California’s Mojave Desert on March 5, 2007. The tanker successfully extended its fifth generation, fly-by-wire air refueling boom and transferred fuel for the first time to another aircraft. (Photo by Jet Fabara)

And, as proved by Sept. 25 mission, the “Buff” can be refueled by the French C-135FR that is quite similar to the U.S. KC-135. Usually the FAF tankers operate with a basket attached to the flying boom since FAF planes use the hose and drogue system and get the fuel through an IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft. The latter, called the “Phénix” when in service, has been ordered in nine examples by France (plus an additional three that have not yet been confirmed.)

 

Salva

Salva

KC-135R In Special Tiger Color Scheme Commemorates The 100th Anniversary Of 141st Air Refueling Squadron

KC-135R with tiger motif.

The photographs in this post were taken on Jun. 22 at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, by Richard Porcelli.

They show a special 141st Air Refueling Squadron (108th Wing, NJ ANG) KC-135R that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the organization of the then 141st Aero Squadron. The tiger motif was applied to the tanker in honor of the squadron commander, Capt. Hobart “Hobey” Baker.

141st ARS Special Color

The paint job applied to the KC-135R 62-3508 is quite similar to the one sported by another Stratotanker of the 141st ARS: the KC-135E 59-1456 that took part in Tiger Meet RIAT Fairford in 1997.

Formed in October 1917, the 141st AS was sent to Europe in December 1917 and finally entered combat from Tour Airfield, France, in April 1918.

The squadron commander, Capt Hobey Baker, was a star Princeton University athlete, especially in ice hockey and also football. Some of the records he set at Princeton still stand. He then joined the Army reserves and volunteered to go to Europe in early 1917.

After advanced training in France, he joined the 103rd Aero Squadron (formed from the Lafayette Escadrille) where he was credited with 0.25 victories (a Fokker DVII shot down on May 18, 1918). He then transferred to the 141st Aero Squadron, becoming commander, and got credit for a further 1.2 victories, also Fokker DVIIs (1.0 on Oct 20th and 0.2 on Nov 5). Baker was killed on December 21, 1918 (the day he was to return to the US) while taking a final flight on a recently repaired SPAD XIII.

100th anniversary nose art

The 141st AS was deactivated in 1920, then reactivated as the 341st Fighter Squadron/348th Fighter Group, the leading P-47 outfit in the Pacific War. They fought in New Guinea, the Philippines, and ended up in the Japanese occupation force. They were disbanded in 1945 while in Japan. After WWII, the 141st Fighter Squadron was reformed as part of the 108th Fighter Group, New Jersey ANG. It flew fighters (F-47D, F-51D/H; F-86E, F-84F, F-86H, F-4D/E) until conversion to the tanker role in 1991.

The unit emblem is still today the Bengal tiger (a Princeton Tiger in honor of Capt. Baker) with orange and black markings playing with a German helmet and Iron Cross.

The engine cover of the aircraft 62-3508

H/T Richard Porcelli

 

Check Out This Really Unusual “Formation”: USAF B-1Bs, B-52H, KC-135R Escorted by Russian SU-27 Over Baltic.

Here are some extraordinary pictures of a really unsual “close encounter” over the Baltic Sea.

In yet another sensational encounter between U.S. and Russian aircraft, two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, a B-52H Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing (both deployed to RAF Fairford, UK) and a KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft from the 459th Air Refueling Squadron were intercepted and observed by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on Friday, June 9 over the Baltic Sea.

The U.S. bomber and tanker formation was participating in BALTOPS, an aerial deployment exercise that rehearses and improves cooperation and interoperability between U.S. and international units and as a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the region to reinforce the U.S. commitment to security.

U.S. Air Force photographer Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder shot these photos (from the boom position of a KC-135 tanker) during the Friday intercept. The U.S. Air Force said officially that, “Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner.”

However the list of intercepts deemed “unsafe” or “unprofessional” from the U.S. DoD is pretty long… (read here or here for a couple of examples.)

A Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepts a formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft, two B-1B Lancers, 28th Bomb Wing, KC-135R Stratotanker, 459th Air Refueling Squadron and B-52H Stratofortress, 2nd Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

There has been an increase in intercepts between NATO, U.S. and Russian aircraft during the last 24 months in what seems like a slightly less-tense return to the Cold War era when intercepts had a distinctly more ominous message. The U.K. based news writer Lizzie Dearden wrote, “Around 780 deployments were made from European military bases last year in response to Russian aircraft, compared to just 410 in 2015.” This does not a string of intercepts in other regions that include a sensational set of four intercepts in a row by USAF F-22 Raptors of Russian maritime patrol aircraft off the Alaskan coast recently.

A Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepts a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 28th Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

While popular news media often adds a sensational spin to the intercepts suggesting some version of political brinkmanship a more relevant interpretation is that the air forces involved are conducting the intercepts for training and air traffic safety reasons. Some NATO aircraft including RAF Typhoons have escorted Russian aircraft that flew in moderate proximity to commonly used civilian air routes without common air traffic control transponders. When NATO aircraft rendezvous with the Russian aircraft they use their transponders to mark the location of the Russian aircraft as they transit the airspace.

Regardless of the motives the encounters often make for sensational photos and video.

A Russian Su-27 Flanker peels away from a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 28th Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Salva

Two U.S. F-35s Have Deployed To Bulgaria Today

The U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft continue their tour of eastern Europe.

On Apr. 28, two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, 14-5094 and 14-5091, belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron, from Hill Air Force Base and temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria.

The aircraft were supported by a single KC-135R Stratotanker, c/s “Nacho 81”, from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, that launched from RAF Mildenhall.

Interestingly, the 5th Gen. aircraft used the very same radio callsigns used by the F-35s involved in the JSF’s first ever visit to Estonia on Tuesday: “Conan 01” flight.

According to the U.S. DoD, today’s training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. “It allows the F-35A the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.”

“The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.”

Already deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, to take part in exercise Thracian Eagle 2017 were also 12 F-15C Eagle jets belonging to the 122nd Fighter Squadron of the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard that are in the involved in the drills along with the local-based Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29s as well as Su-25s from the Forward Deployment Air Base at Bezmer, L-39s from the Air Training Group at Dolna Mitropoliya Air Base, AS-532 AL, Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters from Krumovo Air Base, and air defence units.

Whilst “Nacho 81” could be tracked during its flight (to and back from) Bulgaria, this time the deployment to eastern Europe was not “accompanied” by any evident activity by U.S. or NATO intelligence gathering aircraft. In contrast, as already reported, on Apr. 25, flight tracking websites exposed the presence of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent, an RC-135W Rivet Joint and a RAF Airseeker over or around Estonia.

The KC-135R supporting the F-35 to Bulgaria. (image credit: Adsb Exchange)

 

“That time we lost one KC-135 tanker over the Atlantic while returning from Red Flag Alaska”

Last week, while unpacking some boxes I’ve stumbled in my Red Flag Alaska (RF-A) papers. Suddenly, an endless flashback brought me back to that exercise and to an epic transatlantic flight with 6 receivers and just one tanker…

That RF-A took place in the Summer of 2010. All the Italian Air Force Tornado community took part in the exercise: the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi airbase, equipped with Tornado IDS attack aircraft, deployed to Alaska elements from both the 102° Gruppo (Squadron), the 154° Gruppo and the 156° Gruppo (my squadron) whereas the 50° Stormo, from Piacenza airbase, deployed its 155° Gruppo, equipped with the Tornado ECR, the electronic combat reconnaissance variant of the “Tonka”.

Red Flag Alaska is a really intensive air combat training exercise held at Eielson Air Force Base, 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Participants are organized into “Red” forces (defensive forces), “Blue” forces (offensive forces) and “White” forces representing the neutral forces (typically, the drills control agencies).

In 2010 edition, up to 50 combat aircraft of all types were deployed to Eielson AFB and about 40 (mainly Red Air assets) operated from Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage.

RF-A is a very exciting exercise because it offers a huge high/low altitude Military Operation Area (MOA) and provides a realistoc operational combat scenario that includes several different threats.

A that time, along with being a Tornado pilot, I was also assigned to the Italian Air Force HQ for a so-called “staff tour” during which I worked in the development of the T-346A (M-346 Master aircraft in the ItAF designation), the aircraft I eventually flew years later once I became an IP (Instructor Pilot).

Our plan was to arrive in Alaska a week before RF-A kicked off in order to complete all the in-processing briefings, assume a correct mental preparation and have the possibility to fly at least one LAO (Local Area Orientation) sortie inside the ranges to get familiar with the procedures, alternates and recovery points around Eielson.

Retro flight’s line up card.

Flying a formation of fighter bombers across the Pond is quite complex: it requires a lot of effort by a whole team whose task is to deal with planning the ferry flight, stopovers, refueling points, diplomatic clearances as well as several other logistic details.

Dealing with the assets, three U.S. tankers (2 KC-10s and 1 KC-135s), one ItAF C-130 for search and rescue, and one ItAF Boeing 767 for logistic support were needed.

In terms of plan, a long and complex flight between Italy and Alaska has a main basic requirement: all the aircraft must be filled with the amount of fuel required to either reach the next refueling point or to divert to the nearest alternate airfield, at all the stages of the trip.

As you may imagine, this is not an easy task: not only do the known variables influence the planning but also many unpredictable events (weather conditions, ATC clearances, tanker or receiver issues, etc.) must be taken into proper consideration and, in some way, anticipated.

The type of formation required to undertake the long ferry flight usually includes one tanker (with two hoses/baskets) and 6 Tornados: the dual hose configuration is needed to shorten the AAR (Air-Air Refueling) operations and have a backup option in case one of the baskets becomes unavailable. Dealing with the flight time, the entire trip is split into several legs each consisting of about 5hrs of flight time and 5 air-to-air refueling points (even though this may change because of the winds).

In 2010, the ItAF deployed to Alaska 12 Tornado between ECR version (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) and IDS version (Interdiction and Strike) in two “waves” of 6 aircraft each.

I was selected to bring one of  the jets back at the end of exercise and fly the oceanic track: in other words I had to pilot the Tornado from Bangor to Italy via Lajes, the Azores. Considered that the tankers did not have the dual hose/basket configuration, the plan was to split the formation in two flights of 3 Tornados, each supported by one tanker, perform five refueling operations in about 5 hrs of flight, land in Lajes, spend there 36 hrs there and then continue to our final destination, Ghedi, with another 5-hr leg through the Strait of Gibraltar and 4 additional AARs.

Pretty much this was what we briefed with the tankers the day before the mission. The “only” problem was the weather on the departure day. The wx forecast highlighted two possible issues.

The first one was a very low ceiling not allowing the “compound departure.” The compound departure is a sort of racetrack departure procedure where tanker and fighters rejoin shortly after takeoff over the airfield and then proceed together along the route: in this way the time to rejoin with the tanker minimized; the tanker is responsible for navigation, airspace coordination, correct AAR sequence, time and fuel off load.

The second issue was that solid clouds were reported up to FL250 (which is above the best AAR altitude for Tornado) and well beyond the first refueling point (C2, according to the map).

In other words, with that kind of weather we would be forced to take off, look for the tanker during the climb to the cruise level with the risk of not being able to get in visual contact with the refueler by the missing refueling point (MRP) due to the poor visibility and cloud coverage, and be eventually forced to divert to the alternate because the fuel would not be enough to return to Bangor.

So the question was: “continue with this plan or postpone the mission until weather improves?” Re-planning isn’t easy when a lot of people, different commands and supporting assets are involved. Delaying the mission would also have a logistic impact as lodging would have to be arranged for many military at different airbases. Last but not least, a delay of one day in Bangor would have led to a delay of three days in the overall trip since the original take off from Lajes was scheduled on Friday morning and Saturday and Sunday are no-fly days there, meaning that we would have to wait until Monday to depart from the Azores.

We eventually decided to wait until the departure day and check the actual weather before opting for a delay.

On early morning Jul. 13 we met in the briefing room: the weather was exactly as forecasted, but the good news was that the forecast for the next two hours reported the clouds moving westward. This gave us good chances of reaching VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) before the missing refueling point (MRP), about 50nm before C4.

Therefore, the revised plan was to launch the tankers 5 minutes ahead of the Tornados so that the refuelers could set the holding at least 20 nm before the first MRP. In case of bad weather, the tankers could extend eastwards, moving the holding pattern until good weather was found or fuel to divert to divert to the alternate airfield was reached (whichever came first). In order to have the option to fly eastwards as much as possible, we decided to use St. Johns as alternate airfield.

This plan implied minimum spacing and a first, quick plug to get the gas required to increase the endurance as needed to start a new refueling sequence. In such conditions the crews need to be very precise and disciplined: each aircraft is allowed to take just the minimum fuel needed to continue the flight and then make room to the other jets. The wait-refuel-wait sequence is extremely important as each member of the formation has always to have enough fuel to divert and reach the alternate, should the need arise. Moreover, the farther you meet the tanker and start the sequence, the more fuel you’ll need. But more fuel translate in a longer sequence, hence more gas is burnt by the aircraft waiting for their turn to refuel… In other words, it’s a matter of continuous calculations.

Mid track chart

The day of the flight

It’s 07:00L on Jul. 13, 2010. I’m the leader of 3-ship formation, radio callsign “Retro 11” and my tanker is a KC-10 single hose. We are finishing the briefing with the Extender aircrew and in 10 minutes we will be walking towards the assigned aircraft.

The Squadron Commander, callsign “Mig” is the leader of the other 3-ship formation “Retro 14” whose tanker is a KC-135 single hose with Boom to Drogue Adapter (BDA). The BDA is a very stable system, easier to plug, but more difficult to maintain while refueling since it needs a particular “S” shape to open the refuel valves like you see in the picture below.

A Tornado refuels from a KC-135 equipped with the BDA (Credit: USAF)

After 20 minutes, we are at the holding point ready for takeoff. The KC-135 gets airborne as scheduled; “Retro 14” follows 5 minutes later. Then it’s the turn of my tanker (KC-10) that gets airborne two minutes after the first flight of “Tonkas” and now it’s my turn aboard “Retro 11”.

I perform the visual signals, release the brakes and depart.

Just 30 seconds after take-off my number three calls “Airborne! Visual two” meaning that they have departed and have visual contact with the preceding Tornado. I slow down to 280 KTS, remaining below the clouds, to expedite the rejoin of my wingmen.

With my wingmen in close formation I start a climb while turning inbound the planned track. At 1,500 ft I’m in the clouds: my two wingmen, “Cloude” on the left wing and “Blondie” on the right wing, are absolutely awesome as they keep a perfect close formation.

We are approaching FL150 and my navigator “Giaspa” is doing an outstanding  job with the radar. Although we are inside solid clouds since our first turn, he has a positive radar contact with the tanker 15NM in front of us. Having the tanker in our radar scope keeps us quite calm: we can focus on rejoining with the tanker preventing any delays

At FL 170 I accelerate a little bit to get closer to the tanker and minimize the rejoin time. “Giaspa” continues to give me updates about the tanker he keeps tracking on the radar and now we are extremely happy with a pretty solid SA (Situational Awareness). “Let’s hope the weather moves in accordance with the forecast and clears our refueling point,” I say to “Giaspa” over the intercom.

In the mean time I contact “Mig” to have some more information from them, flying about 5- 6 minutes ahead of us. “Gonzo we are flying in the clouds at FL190,” he responds.

We are currently over C2 (the waypoint where AAR should have started) and we are in the clouds. We need to calculate how long we can fly before reaching the point to divert and, at the same time, we cover all the “what if” options trying to update a kind of dynamic plan. Waypoint C3 is approaching.

In my mind the option to divert starts to become more and more realistic: we are flying over waypoint C3 and we are still inside the clouds.

This first segment of our long trip  seems to be endless and we steer inbound C4, our “go/no-go point.”

The first leg from Bangor

About five minutes later “Mig” calls me on the radio: “Gonzo we are VMC at FL190 at 25 NM from the MRP and we are in sight with the tanker.”

I smile under the oxygen mask, acknowledge the call on the radio and ask my tanker to climb to FL190: in less than a minute we are above the clouds, in clear skies with our tanker in sight in front of us. I immediately re-check the fuel and call for correct refuel sequence: I’ll be the number one, then will be the turn of “Claude” followed by “Blondie.”

The tanker crew feels our pressure and acts accordingly: the refuelers is extremely cooperative and facilitates the rejoin procedure clearing me directly to the pre-contact position.

I start to refuel. After a few minutes I move to the “observation position” allowing my wingman to plug into the tanker’s hose.

Everything is going very smoothly. We can also take more fuel than initially planned: we have taken 800 Kg each instead of 600 Kg; the plan is to take 2,000 kg each in the next sequence and then fill the tanks again to regain the original AAR schedule.

Meanwhile, Retro 14 formation is on my right, about 3 NM in line abreast 1,000 ft above. They are about to refuel in sequence from the KC-135 in accordance with their fuel state: “Lillo” (#2) then “Mig” (#1) and last will be “Mastro” (#3).

“Lillo” approaches the hose and in a second plugs the probe into the basket. When everything seems to be ok, something happens. About a minute after the successful “contact” he starts a small PIO (Pilot Induced Oscillation) that in a few seconds becomes bigger and bigger until it breaks the only basket available on the KC-135! The basket disconnects from the hose misses “Lillo”’s air intake by few meters and falls down into the Ocean.

“Ohhh noooo!!”

The “broken” tanker heads to St. Johns whilst “Mig” and the rest of his formation, join us behind the only remaining tanker able to offload some gas: our KC-10.

In a moment, the situation has dramatically changed. We were three ships with one tanker and now we are six ships and a single refueler: this means less fuel to take, less time to refuel, more plugs and a very long sequence.

“Mig” takes the lead and defines the new refueling sequence in accordance with the formation’s fuel state. “Lillo” has taken 300 kg before breaking the basket while “Mig” and “Mastro” have not had a chance to take gas: they need to refuel asap and then give way to “Lillo” who needs a refill.

In a matter of a few minutes the three Tornados complete the refueling and, a bit more relaxed, we decide to continue the transatlantic crossing with a new sequence involving six ships: I’m the first and “Lillo” will be the last. But considered the queue behind the hose, we will not take 2,000 kg each as planned, but only 500 kg.

The new unplanned sequence seems to be working well until, after the fourth rotation, the tanker radios: “Retro 14 I have gas for six jets only for the next refuel point.”

This isn’t a good news because we are half way from destination and we need at least two more AARs to reach Lajes.

According to the plan, a third tanker should be coming our way from Moron, Spain. Let’s check where it is now.

Our tanker says the new Extender, callsign “Blue 61”, has departed ahead of the scheduled time and is currently already heading westbound over the Atlantic. “Mig” asks our KC-10 to coordinate an expedited rendezvous with the new refueler that would allow us an additional plug.

We meet “Blue 61″ after completing our last refueling with the first KC-10 tanker. The new Extender brings us to Lajes with two additional AARs.

We eventually land there on Jul. 14, after 7 hours of flight time and 7 aerial refuelings!

Once on the ground we meet the rest of the aircrews in the pilot lounge and start relaxing. “If we are here is because of you and also because of the skill and cold blood of all pilots and navigators,” I say to “Mig” and “Gigi”.

A couple of hours after landing, 6 F-16Bs of the PAF (Pakistan Air force), on their way to Nellis Air Force Base, where they would take part in a Red Flag for the first time, perform a stopover in Lajes. We are not alone in the Azores.

Last leg

It’s Jul. 16, I’m back in the cockpit leading the same formation of ItAF Tornados to Italy. Once again “Mig” is the leader of the other section. This time the weather is good.

The last leg was uneventful: everything went well and we arrived in Italy as planned.

What I remember of this second flight is the moment when I was approaching the Strait of Gibraltar: the scenery suddenly changed due to the influence of Sahara desert. Colors changed. From a deep blue start the sky turned into yellow then orange and then into light red just over the Strait. These colors, the Strait, were a unique sight and my feeling was like I was passing through a gate in a game when you change level: it was an indescribable experience.

In the end the entire transfer was a unique, challenging experience. Thousands of words are still not enough to describe our emotions, moods, concerns and adrenalin. You really had to be inside the cockpit to fully understand what we lived up there. Still I would do it again tomorrow.

In my opinion, this mission is the perfect example how discipline, professionalism, team work and training may be the keys to success.

Top image: file photo of an Italian Tornado IDS refueling from a KC-10 over Afghanistan