The Red Flag Tanker Flight 14-1


As anyone who is into Military Aviation knows, the Red Flag exercise is held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, just north of Las Vegas, NV. It is probably the most media covered exercise each and every year.

Here it is, Feb.10, I found myself back at the Nellis Air Force base’s parking lot, and getting into a van to go on base and get on a plane again. There was 5 of us, one was the editor from Combat Aircraft Magazine, Jaime Hunter, my new friend Ivan Voukadinov, who is one of the best Aviation photographers that I know, and two others. This years Red Flag flights would be a little different from past others. No longer was there a Red Flight, which covers the Aggressor’s fighters of the 57th Wing, both the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons, both stationed at Nellis AFB. Only Blue flights would host the media.

Ivan and I got on our Boeing KC-135, while the others jumped on another. Our plane was being piloted by Captain Alex Duke, Co Pilot Robbi Bethancourt, and Boom Operator Airman Ryan Kemp. They are all attached to the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, out of Fairchild AFB, Washington.

We settled into our seats after the safety briefing, and soon we were in the air and climbing high into the sunny blue skies with huge billowy white clouds. We headed north, and I believe we were over Southern Utah, when the first of the fighters started to show up for refueling.

In 3 hours, were refueled fighters from:

The 1st Fighter Wing, 27th Fighter Squadron, F-22As, from Langley AFB, Virginia.

The 20th Fighter Wing, 55th Fighter Squadron, F-16CMs, from Shaw AFB, South Carolina

The 140th Fighter Wing, 120th Fighter Squadron, F-16C, from Buckley AFB, Colorado.

This was my first Air2Air with modern military aircraft, and what a blast it was. Lucky for Ivan and myself, as our windows were clean and free from hydraulic oil that sometimes forms a thin sheet on the windows making it difficult to photograph anything. I shot through both side windows of the KC-135, and then down though the windows in the tail of the plane where the boom operator is located while refueling is taking place.

After landing, I drove back to San Diego. I was just so happy, that the 5 hour drive felt like only a few. I want to thank the US Air Force, the Base PAO’s, and the crew of our tanker flight. Some of the best moments of my life

Douglas Aguillard

Douglas (Doug) Aguillard is a Freelance Photojournalist who specializes in the Military & Aviation fields. Based in San Diego, CA, he is a Marine veteran., He currently is a photojournalist for the Military Press Newspaper, the Historical / Archival Dept. photographer for the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, and a very proud member of Photo Recon, and has been published in various magazines and books such as "Combat Aircraft Monthly" magazine, "Vertical " magazine, "Wings of Gold" magazine, Sikorsky Frontlines newsletter, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum's Book: "Celebrating the San Diego Air & Space Museum: A History of the Museum and it's collections".

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