Military Aviation

RAAF and USAF tankers complete first ever formation flight in support of combat aircraft involved in Mosul offensive

The two tankers delivered more than 600 thousand pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft supporting the liberation of Mosul

As reported by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs in the article Interoperability accelerates fight against Da’esh, as the fight against Daesh continues, interoperability between allied forces is proving to be essential in the success of Operation Inherent Resolve.

A practical example of this concept comes from the first ever formation flight performed on Oct. 24, 2016 by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and a a U.S. Air Force (USAF) KC-10 Extender where the two tankers delivered more than 600 thousand pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft supporting the liberation of Mosul, Iraq.

“Nothing–and I mean literally nothing–is possible in terms of fighter aviation in CENTCOM unless we get help from our brothers and sisters in the tanker world,” pointed out Col. Paul Birch, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group commander and F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. “Fighters and tankers are a very close-knit team taking the fight to Daesh.”

Both the air refueling platforms are fitted with two different kinds of air-to-air refueling systems in the form of an aerial refueling boom and a hose-and-drogue system to refuel probe-equipped aircraft.

Noteworthy the two tankers completed more than a dozen successful refuels during the flight. Many of the receiving aircraft were RAAF F-18 Hornets which provided close air support (CAS) and interdiction of enemy supply lines directly against Daesh.

“We have demonstrated greater interoperability,” said Maj. Kyle, USAF military personnel exchange crew member on the RAAF KC-30. “When we fly together in formation, we can provide mutual support for one another.”

Despite the challenges of combining airpowers can be daunting, for the two crews this opportunity proved to be a rewarding experience.

“I think this mission was definitely a success across the board,” said Lt. Col. Aaron, 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron commander. “By working with the RAAF, we proved that we could plan, generate, launch and execute a formation. In the future, I think you may even see us consolidate fuel, which would be an added advantage during dynamic operations.”

U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender and Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A crews pose for a photo after completing the first ever coalition formation flight on Oct. 25, 2016

Photo credit: Royal Australian Air Force and Senior Airman Tyler Woodward / U.S. 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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