Peter Boschert – Air Refueling F-15E From RAF Mildenhall


Air to Air refueling of Lakenheath’s F-15E of 48th FW/494th FS with KC-135R.

In the early hours on 24th April 2014 I walked into the briefing room of 100th ARW at RAF Mildenhall to participate in the briefing of our tanker flight.

It was planned to refuel 10 F-15Es of 494th FS / 48th FW from the neighboring RAF Lakenheath.

The refueling should take place at 15:00 local time in the southwest of the UK.

At 12:00 we drove to our aircraft, KC-135R with serial 59-1492, take off was set for 14:00.

Our aircraft had made an amazing 22.500 flying hours in 55 years.

The mission of the 351st ARS/100th ARW is to refuel jets of the USAFE and its NATO allies in Europe. 15 KC-135R with 27 crews are assigned to the squadron to fulfill its task.

The 100th ARW was formed in 1942 as 100th BG and flew B-17s from Great Britain, 1992 it was reformed as 100th ARW at RAF Mildenhall.

The KC-135 is amongst the oldest aircraft in the USAF, it serves in various commands since 1957 and will be in service in the years to come.

732 units were delivered to the US Forces, over 400 are still in service today.

The KC-135R with its significant CFM56 engines was introduced in 1984, 345 KC-135A and 20 KC-135E were converted to the R model.

Fighter aircraft get fuel at a rate between 570 to 1700 Liters. For bomber and transport aircraft the rate can be increased to 3400 Liter.

A C-5 Galaxy needs about 30 min to refuel its tanks.

Even with the old Jets of the U.S. Air Force, the PDA in in full use now.

The checks of the crew lasted nearly 2 hours and I was impressed how much workload the crew has. During taxing to the runway or during flight, every 5 to 10 seconds decisions had to be made, instrument panels watched and checked, panels to be switched. So no easy game for the crew of a KC-135, despite the modern equipment which helps a lot for safety.

The boomer is lying in a KC-135 on a bench and looks through a small window onto the aircraft which has to be refueled, the boom is moved via a side stick.

He can move the boom in each direction, the length of it is from 8.5 m to 14.3 m.

It was 13:30, engine 3 was started, followed by 4, 1 and as last engine 2. When I looked at the panels, I was amazed about the synchronous run of the four Pratt & Whitney engines.

Exactly at 14:00 “Quid 76” released the brakes and was on its way to the refueling track.

At 15:00 it was showtime! The first Strike Eagle approached the tanker. It is an amazing sight to see the aircraft from this position. The F-15 came closer, the boomer closed the connection and the fuel was flowing. After 4 min the F-15E had received enough fuel and moved to the right wingtip of the KC-135R while the next Strike Eagle approched the tail of the tanker to receive its fuel.

The whole action lasted for 20 min and during this time it is a running from the boomer to the side window and back to get the best pictures.

After the refueling we were heading back to Mildenhall, where we arrived at 18:00.

A last touch and go, then we we landed gently on the runway in light rain and I had to leave the plane. Another great day was nearing its end.

I like to thank the PAO at Ramstein and Mildenhall to make this article possible and the crew of “Quid 76” for their help and hospitality.

Peter Boschert

Peter Boschert

Peter is a photographer covering events in the United States and in Europe. He likes to cover Nellis AFB, NAS Fallon and RAF Lakenheath.

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