Flying with the legendary Bloody Hundredth Refuelling the sent
On 10 September 2014 Reheat Aviation were granted special security clearance to photograph 64-14849 RC-135U Combat Sent, from one of the 100th ARW KC-135R’s. The KC-135R would be supporting the RC-135U on one of its routine European Reconnaissance missions. The tanker aircraft was 63-8884 call sign ‘Qid 91’ which departed with 165, 000 pounds of fuel on-board, and our “bingo” fuel would be 45,000, enabling a safe return to Mildenhall. The RC-135U Combat Sent used callsign ‘Penny 11 Heavy’.
Both aircraft launched from RAF Mildenhall at around 07:00, with the RC-135U departing first to begin its mission, followed soon afterwards by the tanker we would head north and start a towline which is just one strip of airspace that the tanker and reciever stay in at a set altitude. Both aircraft rendezvoused in the track on time with the RC-135 approaching the tanker from a lower altitude, and slowly ascending to the boom.
Once the RC-135 was getting ready to make contact we encountered some cloud and turbulence, and with the bow wave created by the RC-135 made it difficult for both aircraft to remain stable. After several attempts the Combat Sent finally made a clean contact and the fuel was passed, overall we passed 24,000 pounds of fuel to the RC-135U. One of our pilots Major Jeff Ledeboer explained how difficult it is for the RC-135 to refuel whilst the cloud layer is at eye level. He explained, “The pilot will be continuously watching the tanker as he approaches, but when he is flying through clouds at eye level this gives an optical allusion that tanker is moving around.”.
Once the refuelling was complete the RC-135U disconnected and descended below the tanker and proceeded with its mission, we would then power up and climb to 32,000 ft and head back to Mildenhall entering Uk airspace from the north for a runway 11 approach into Mildenhall.