Keeping RF-A 23-1 Fueled

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julia Lebens
  • JBER Public Affairs

With over 40 aircraft flying during RED FLAG-ALASKA 23-1 and 1,000 personnel from 14 units all over the world, including NATO, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal Air Force, keeping gas tanks full takes a capable team.

KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan; 384th Air Refueling Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; 350th Air Refueling Squadron, McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; and fuels Airmen from the 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson play a critical role in ensuring that RF-A 23-1 participants can conduct training missions and keep flying.

During an average 16 days at JBER, POL Airmen typically fuel aircraft with 1.8 million gallons of jet fuel. During RF-A 23-1, that number rose to around 2.4 million gallons.

“We get more aircraft, and our ops tempo goes up 33 percent from regular work,” said Staff Sgt. Aghtoclia Vasquez, the noncommissioned officer in charge of mobile distribution for the 673d LRS. “They [fuels Airmen] get to experience how fuels fill partner nation’s aircraft.”

Each KC-135 Stratotanker can transfer up to 200,000 pounds of fuel and conducts up to 40 refuelings a day during RF-A 23-1, refueling aircraft unlike those at their home stations. Without the KC-135s, training missions would be reduced from about four hours to about one for the participating RF-A 23-1 fighter jets. These refuelings also allow KC-135 Stratotanker crews to train in a different environment than they would typically.

“This is a good taste of what it will be like in certain theaters if they have to deploy later on in their careers,” said Capt. Tim Shenk, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot assigned to the 909th ARS.

Some of the aircraft refueled by the KC-135 during this iteration include F-15 Eagles from Kadena, and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Misawa Air Base, Japan, and POL Airmen ensured that the C-130s Hercules, C-17s Globemasters IIIs, and E3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems taking part in RF-A 23-1 stayed fueled.

RF-A provides a realistic training opportunity for these Airmen, allowing them to perform in an environment they wouldn’t typically work in. Without the Airmen fueling and maintaining this mission, RF-A would not be able to take place.