UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - In order for U.S. military ground forces engaged in operations in Afghanistan, they require continuous close air support made possible by 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron tankers.
“With air refueling, aircrafts can be topped off within minutes” said Maj. Jeremy M. Keyes, a 340th EARS flight commander, deployed from Wisconsin Air National Guard, 128th Air Refueling Wing, hails from Big Bend, Wis. “We save time because fighters don’t have to go back to the base where they launched from to get more fuel”.
Without this fuel, fighter jets would not be able to carry out their mission, said Keyes as he explained their important role.
This seasoned aircraft has successfully ensured aerial aircraft refueling for nearly 60 years, and helped accomplish the Air Force’s goal of global reach. The KC-135 Stratotanker provides core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. It also provides aerial refueling support to Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft.
“We not only support U.S. military aircraft but also North American Treaty Organization forces,” Keyes said.
The mission capability of the KC-135 to provide in-flight refueling takes away the risk of aircraft needing to land and refuel.
“Once on the ground, there is high risk that something can go wrong with the aircraft and if it’s down than that is one less asset in the air,” said Keyes.
The 340th EARS flies KC-135s deployed to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here. The Stratotanker is capable of hauling 200,000 pounds of fuel and 83,000 pounds of cargo including 37 passengers and six pallets making it the most versatile airframe in the Air Force.
“This capability saves a lot of time when a four- to five-hour cover mission is shortened to an hour,” Keyes said.
Typically, fighters have a range of around 1,000 nautical miles.
“Being able to get back and continue the fight is essential to every mission”, said 1st Lt. Jacob Kummrow, a 340th EARS co-pilot, deployed from the 128th ARW (WANG) and a Oconomowoc, Wis., native.
The KC-135 Stratotanker’s fuel is pumped through the boom, its primary fuel transfer method.
“It’s pretty nerve wrecking, especially night refueling, but once you do it a couple of times, it becomes second nature”, said Tech. Sgt. Jordan Jungwirth, 340th EARS boom operator, deployed from the 128th ARW (WANG) and hails from Oshkosh, Wis. “It’s a great feeling knowing that what I do has a big impact on ground mission.”