Military Aviation

Fairchild sets record with 20 KC-135 Stratotanker minimum interval take-off (MITO) departure

The process of getting a single KC-135 into the air is complex and takes a multitude of professional Airmen working in unison- 20 of them is a whole different story.

On Sep. 29, 2021, the 92nd Air Refueling Wing successfully launched a 20-ship minimum interval take-off (MITO) mission at Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB), Wash.

As explained by Airman 1st Class Anneliese Kaiser, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, in the article 92nd MXG works around-the-clock to make history with 20 KC-135 Stratotanker takeoff, this MITO was part of a proficiency and readiness exercise which sought to validate Fairchild’s maintenance generation and operational capabilities to launch multiple KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft in rapid succession.

“From the top down, everyone was on point and ready to complete this mission,” said Master Sgt. Cody Haynes, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expediter. “In Maintenance, we get the mission done — period. Our crew works around the clock to ensure the airworthiness of these 65-year-old plus aircraft.”

A row of KC-135 Stratotankers taxi on the flight line at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash, Sep. 29, 2021. Following the taxi, 20 aircraft took off from the flight line, which provided an opportunity to showcase the readiness of Fairchild aircrews and the fleet of aircraft.

The 92nd AMXS is one of many organizations responsible for getting the record number of tankers for Team Fairchild fixed and off the ground in perfect harmony.

“Between the crew chiefs crushing it on the ground, the specialists responding to red balls [time-sensitive maintenance] during the aircraft launch, and the production team coordinating the maintenance actions, we made this a no-fail mission,” Haynes said. “We are the best at what we do and that’s evident with what we can accomplish.”

The process of getting a single KC-135 into the air is complex and takes a multitude of professional Airmen working in unison- 20 of them is a whole different story.

Multiple KC-135 Stratotankers perform an elephant walk as part of a 20-aircraft minimal interval takeoff exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Sep. 29, 2021. This exercise served as a demonstration of Fairchild’s strategic mission capabilities to deter adversaries.

“We pulled off something historic,” said Colonel Craig Giles, 92nd Maintenance Group Commander. “Even more impressively, our maintainers generated 20 aircraft with no spares and then launched them all without a single line canceled. It would not have been possible without the hard work of the entire Fairchild team.”

The display of airpower that Fairchild showcased provides proof of what can be done at a moment’s notice.

“I think it’s always important to let our adversaries know that we’re not to be messed with,” Haynes said. “At any point, we can put these aircraft up in the air and reach out and touch them, wherever our enemies are hiding.”

Without maintenance units working together to complete their mission, the incredible result of the launch wouldn’t have been possible.

Top image and Above: Multiple KC-135 Stratotankers fly in formation as part of a 20-aircraft minimal interval takeoff exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Sep. 29, 2021. This exercise was the largest KC-135 MITO training in Fairchild’s history.

Common place during the Cold War, a MITO challenges crews to get multiple aircraft off the ground within 15 minutes of initial alert notices.

While the small launch window is challenging in itself, turbulence created from the leading aircraft can create rough air for the following planes, testing the aircrew’s skills.

Although the days of the Cold War are over, a MITO showcases the operational capability US Air Force (USAF) aircraft continue to maintain, proving aircrew and maintenance personnel are ready to perform and execute at a moment’s notice.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. KC-135R Stratotanker 161st Air Refueling Wing, 197th Air Refueling Squadron “Copperheads”, 63-8038 – Arizona Air National Guard – Sky Harbor ANG Base, AZ

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Lawrence Sena / US Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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