No matter how deadly, the F-35 couldn’t go anywhere or complete any mission without regular fuel-ups from the gas-station-in-the-sky KC-135 Stratotanker
Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB) KC-135 Stratotanker was hard at work refueling six of the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters, the F-35A Lightning II, over the Pacific Northwest on Oct. 17, 2017.
As explained by Senior Airman Janelle Patiño, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, in the article Legacy Stratotanker refuels newest Air Force fighters, the F-35 provides next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness and reduced vulnerability for the U.S. and allied nations, but it couldn’t go anywhere or complete any mission without regular fuel-ups from the gas-station-in-the-sky KC-135 Stratotanker.
“It was the crew’s first time refueling not just one, but six of the newest aircraft in the Air Force inventory,” said Capt. Halverstadt, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) pilot. “We were focusing on check rides and getting all [training] requirements completed, but we took a few moments during the flight to remind ourselves we were refueling one of the newest jets. It was definitely exciting.”
KC-135 allow F-35s longer time en route by providing them timely movement and assisting them responsively, delivering and giving them fuel anywhere on the globe to complete their mission.
“KC-135s allow fighters that much more reach. It has a strong history of doing what it takes to get the mission done,” said Capt. Kevin Mulligan, 93rd ARS pilot. “Overall, [in-flight refueling] is key to tactical and strategic operations.”
Considering the KC-135 is more than 60 years old, the maintenance and upgrades performed on the aircraft to modernize and improve operational effectiveness and efficiency enables its capacity to deliver effective warfighter support at the right time and place.
“The latest update, Block 45, has made [the KC-135] similar to most modern airlines by putting the glass display in the middle with all the engine instruments,” Mulligan said. “By having an LCD display, you can do a software update like any other technology. It’s just like downloading your cellphone software; it streamlines the process and makes it quicker.”
“The KC-135 is the backbone to Air Power. We must be an agile force that can go anywhere at a moment’s notice, and without our KC-135 fleet, our ability to accomplish our mission is impossible,” said Lt. Col. Bart Wilbanks, 466th Fighter Squadron F-35 assistant director of operations. “Current operations worldwide are extremely dependent on the KC-135 for almost all the Air Forces core competencies. The F-35 is amazing machine, but without the KC-135 we would be extremely limited to what it could accomplish on a given mission.”
As the 93rd ARS’ motto goes, “Nobody can get any work done without tanker gas.” The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for six decades.
Photo credit: Master Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski and Senior Airman Sean Campbell / U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com