Flying with the legendary Bloody Hundredth Part 2
The 100th ARW Operations
The 100th ARW have been assigned to RAF Mildenhall since 1992 and have been in every major operation since, some such as Kosovo, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. In 2011 the 100th ARW were called upon to fly missions under the Callsign ‘Exxon’ and ‘OUP’ as part of Operation Unified Protector in Libya, where they gave around the clock assistance to USAF and NATO assets to complete their mission.
On the 26th January 2013 the 100th ARW were called upon to support the French Air Force with operations over Mali. The 351st Expeditionary Air Refuelling Squadron (EARS) were sent to assist. After 2 months of the 351st Expeditionary Air Refuelling Squadron’s involvement in these operations the Squadron had completed 100 sorties with the French Air Force that included more than 1,000 receiver contacts and they had passed more than 4.5 million pounds of fuel. This number will have grown tremendously as they are still supporting the French Air Force with these operations.
The most recent operations that the 100th ARW have been a major part of have been supporting fighter aircraft on BALTOPS (Baltic Operations). They have also been flying missions along side reconnaissance platforms, such as the E-3 AWACS that had been flying surveillance missions over Ukraine in January of 2014, and had been utilising the 100th ARW for Air-to-Air Refuelling also the 100th ARW and members of the 351st ARS are currently tasked with supporting aircraft that have been deployed as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve in Europe along with Operation Inherent Resolve.
In 2013 when speaking to Captain Chuck Restall the Chief of current Operations at the 100th ARW he explained to Reheat Aviation, “The operational tempo, of the unit is high and we are ready to be called upon at any time to be deployed”. Captain Restall then explained “We have 15 KC-135R’s assigned to this unit, and that 11 KC-135R’s are on the ground at Mildenhall at this moment in time, the rest are deployed supporting coalition forces around the world” this has been shown time and time again with the hard work put in by the incredible maintenance personnel that keep the jets at flying status.
When the 100th ARW is not participating in combat situations they are still busy refuelling the F-15C/E’s from the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath, as well as supporting NATO assets from many different countries from across Europe. The 100th ARW as part of NATO are tasked with refuelling many different aircraft from many different NATO countries, this is vital not just for the need of fuel by the receiving aircraft, but for the KC-135 crews to keep current on refuelling different types of aircraft with the boom and MPRS pods. This training will prepare not only the tanker crews but also the crews of the receiving aircraft for when they do the Air-to-Air Refuelling in a combat situation.
When speaking to Captain Robert Madson of the 100th ARW,he told Reheat Aviation how they maintain a constant altitude whilst fuelling the receivers, “Once we position the KC-135 into the Air-to-Air refuelling track, we maintain our refuelling altitude by using the KC-135’s auto-pilot altitude hold switch, which will work with the electronic trim motors, which are positioned on the horizontal stabilizers of the aircraft, this enables us to hold the aircrafts pitch and altitude”.
Captain Robert Madson then went onto explain that the aircraft can also be flown off auto-pilot but the pilot or co-pilot depending on who is flying the mission will be in control of the aircraft, and will adjust the trim manually so that it relieves pressure from the controls. Whilst the pilot keeps the aircraft at the correct altitude he will also be in charge of directing the receiving aircraft to the holding point, which is normally on either the right or left-wing.
The pilot is also in charge of using the boost pumps to transfer the fuel in to the intended fuel tanks, whilst opening and closing drainage valves, which helps the fuel flow through the aircraft to these fuel tanks much more easily. The secondary pilot will back the pilot up on these tasks, whilst also working out the maths to make sure that the KC-135 has got enough fuel to carry on after the refuelling is complete.
Msgt. Michael Rodriguez explained to Reheat Aviation about the Multi Point Refuelling System (MPRS), and the difficulty that the receiver has to get that perfect contact. He explained ” if the receiver is a fighter jet they will be directed up onto one of the wings, where the pilot will have to match the speed of the tanker, and wait there turn.” He continued to explain ” Once its time for the receiver to collect fuel, the pilot will deploy the refuelling probe, and will position the fighter behind the tanker, and slowly approach the basket with help from some lights that are positioned on the mipper pods, or the lights that are positioned on the under-side of the KC-135 if they are approaching a boom fitted basket.”
The boomer will talk to the receiver telling him his distance from the basket, once the jet is connected to the tanker the fuel can start to flow. Msgt. Rodriguez then explained, “The receiver has to hit the basket perfectly, otherwise if he is just not connected correctly the fuel will take longer, to flow as the tankers systems slow the fuel flow rate down.” Msgt. Patrick Denson the boom operator on board Qid 65 explained, why the fighters extend then retract their refuelling probe before contact. We were refuelling Tornado ECR’s with the boom fitted hose and drogue, the Tornado ECR’s have a refuelling probe which is housed on the right hand side of the cockpit, Msgt Denson explained “When the Tornado’s approach the tanker the pilot would deploy, the refuelling probe and then he will retract it again, as this will apply drag and inevitably slow the fighter down”.