Stratotankers have provided the core aerial refueling capability for the USAF for nearly 60 years and have empowered fighter aircraft for generations, from the F-4 Phantom to today’s F-35 Lightning II
On Mar. 14, 2017 the 909th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) conducted the inaugural aerial-refueling mission with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 F-35B Lightning IIs from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, over the Pacific Ocean.
As explained by Senior Airman John Linzmeier, 18th Wing Public Affairs in his article 909th ARS conducts F-35 inaugural refueling, this is the first time the 909th ARS performed air-to-air refueling with F-35B’s within their area of operation, making the VMFA-121 one of 26 flying units currently supported by the 18th Wing. Kadena AB also delivers fuel to aircraft from the U.S. Navy and Republic of Korea Air Force.
“The way we operate between services is almost transparent,” explained Capt. Erik Cadorette, 909th ARS pilot. “We’re not going to operate any differently if are working with our sister services or our allies. They can request gas from us at any point and there’s not a lot to change in order for us to work with them.”
Caddorette said that this sortie was not only a key step toward supporting the fifth-generation fighters, but also a valuable opportunity for his aircrew because it enables them to prepare other pilots and boom operators for future F-35 operations.
Noteworthy, as we have already explained, Stratotankers have provided the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force for nearly 60 years and have empowered fighter aircraft for generations, from the F-4 Phantom to today’s most advanced weapon systems.
“It is crazy to realize that we’ve got these KC-135 that have been made in the late 50’s and early 60’s and are still capable of meeting up with these new F-35s,” said Capt. Matt Davis, 909th ARS pilot. “It’s a tale of two worlds for sure.”
The 909th Air Refueling Squadron is part of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan. It operates the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft conducting air refueling missions.
The 909th is the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)’s “lead force” for air refueling U.S. and allied aircraft during contingencies. The squadron accomplishes aeromedical evacuations for military and civilian members, transporting patients to as far away as the United States when necessary.
Source: U.S. Air Force; Photo credit: Senior Airman John Linzmeier / U.S. Air Force