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100th Air Refuelling Wing, RAF Mildenhall
 
Latest update: December 2010
 
The 100th Air Refueling Wing (100 ARW) is based at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, UK and operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. The wing is parent to three groups (see organizational chart below) with the aircraft and aircrews assigned to the 351st Air Refueling Squadron (351st ARS). 15 of the air refueling aircraft are operated by the 351 ARS providing air to air refueling and combat support operations throughout the United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) area of operations being Europe, Atlantic Ocean and African region.
RAF Mildenhall was created in 1929 when the British government bought the land to house a bomber wing. In 1931 the first houses were build. The official opening of the base was on October 16, 1934 making it one of the RAF’s largest bomber bases. The first American unit to arrive at the RAF Mildenhall was 93rd Bomb Group on July 12, 1950 but the unit only stayed for a short period because it was replaced by the 509th Bomb Wing on February 7, 1951. The base came under control of Strategic Air Command (SAC) in late 1951. SAC rotated bombers in and out till it left in 1958. Till 1992 RAF Mildenhall saw numerous changes in units and commands based. When the USAF transitioned to the objective wing structure it activated the 100th Air Refueling Wing on February 1, 1992. In April 1995 the 352nd Special Operations Group (352nd SOG) transferred from RAF Alconbury to RAF Mildenhall
.

Currently the following units find their home at RAF Mildenhall: 100th ARW (KC-135R), 352nd Special Operations Group (MC-130H Combat Talon II and MC-130P Combat Shadow), 95th Reconnaissance Squadron (no own aircraft but supports deployed RC-135 and OC-135 aircraft from the 55th Wing based at Offutt AFB, NE), 501st Combat Support Wing, 488 Intelligence Squadron, 727 Air Mobility Squadron (no own aircraft supports transit AMC aircraft), Fleet Industrial Supply Center Sigonella (FISCSI Mildenhall, formerly known as NAF Mildenhall) and the headquarters 3rd Air Force.

100th Air Refueling Wing organisation

All US airbases in Europe are under the command of the United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) which finds its headquarters at Ramstein airbase Germany. Directly below USAFE are two numbered air forces: 3rd Air Force (RAF Mildenhall) and 17th Air Force (Ramstein). The 100th ARW reports to the 3rd Air Force, and itself is parent to three groups who in turn are parent to one or more squadrons as show in the organization chart:


The task of the individual groups and squadrons are:

100th Operations group (flight operations):

- The 100th operations squadron is tasked with mission planning, flight scheduling, survival training, airfield operations, air traffic control and other tasks to support the Wing and air base.

- The 351st ARS provides the aircrew (pilots and boom operators) to fly the 15 assigned KC-135Rs. The squadron has 27 aircrews assigned to fulfill its task of air refueling, medical evacuation and airlift missions in the USAFE theatre of operations (Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia).


351st ARS batch 100th ARW batch

100th Maintenance Group (maintenance operations):

- The 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron manages and performs on-site maintenance to the KC-135R fleet.

 - The 100th Maintenance operation Squadron is responsible for monitoring and coordinating the overall maintenance production efforts and makes sure the KC-135 can effectively execute the flying program.  


- The 100th Maintenance Squadron performs ground and component maintenance support of assigned ACC, AFSOC, AMC, USAFE and transient aircraft. It manages the regional repair center for all KC-135s deployed or transiting Europe and Southwest Asia. When needed the airmen are deployed to assist the own or sister wings.


100th Mission support Group (supports the other groups and airbase):

- The 100th security forces squadron is responsible for the protection and defense of the airbase as well as training 100th ARW personal bound for deployments. Because of being a United Kingdom airbase the RAF police are stationed at RAF Mildenhall and can act on traffic violations and airbase intrusion.


- The 100th Civil Engineering squadron is responsible for fire fighting, disaster preparedness and base construction.

 - The 100th Communication Squadron is responsible for all communications including air traffic control, landing systems, maintenance and operation of communication computer systems.

- The 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron provides logistic support to the 100th ARW and manages stores, inventories and distributes assets and fuel. It it’s also responsible for passenger travel and cargo.

- The 100th Force Support Squadron provides customer support in military and civilian services, education for active duty members and its families.


100th Operations and 100th Maintenance Groups

The main mission of the 351st ARS is air refueling of aircraft with secondary missions being transport of personal and/or cargo and when needed perform the medical evacuation role. The later is done maybe once or twice a year. The KC-135R is then converted to carry eight litters with medical support equipment enabling the aircraft to transport eight minor wounded persons. The squadron has 27 aircrews assigned to operate the 15 KC-135Rs. The aircraft is capable of both refueling aircraft using the boom and drogue system. The drogue system can be applied to the boom enabling the KC-135 to refuel aircraft using this system (F/A-18 Hornet, Tornado, Mirages etc). Converting the boom to this configuration will take three hours to complete. The disadvantage of both systems is that only one type of receiver can be refueled. Therefore a number of KC-135s in USAF service received an update. On each wing a refueling pod called multi point refueling system (MPRS) was installed. The MPRS houses the drogue system. While the aircraft are modified the designations remained the same either KC-135R or KC-135T. The later are converted KC-135Q tankers which were used to refuel the SR-71 until they were taken of charge in the early 1990s. The KC-135s equipped with the MPRS are cleared for simultaneously refueling of two aircraft so either the boom or MPRS system are used but they are not operated together. Whereas using the boom the boom operator makes the connection with the receiver the MPRS requires the receiving pilot to make the connection. In both refueling modes the boomer will monitor the flight envelope. To assist the receiving pilot the belly of the KC-135 has a lighting system and the boomer can also use the communication system to give instructions.

The 351st ARS missions are scheduled by the scheduling shop of the 100th Operations Group (100th OG) who then will assign an aircraft (called tail in military jargon) and crew while the airmen of the 100th Maintenance Group will prepare the aircraft for the mission. Three of the KC-135s are controlled by the scheduling shop and used to fulfill the 351 ARS training needs. This is often done with the 48th FW which is based at nearby RAF Lakenheath. The 48th FW pilots have to remain their proficiency on air refueling and therefore refueling request are send to the 100th ARW. It enables the 100th OG to keep the 351st ARS pilots and boom operators current. All new pilots will undertake a two to three month qualification course. On each flight they are assigned an instructor pilot (IP) who makes sure the training requirements are met. The IP provides feedback to the new pilot during and after each flight and updates the training syllabus. During training only a few hours are flown in the simulator the new pilots are scheduled to fly two or three missions a week. The training syllabus ends which a final flight after which the pilots are released to the flight schedulers to fly on their own. On a yearly basis all of the 351 ARS pilots will complete a mission to keep qualified to fly the KC-135.

When the 100th ARW is requested to support (NATO) exercises the scheduling shop will receive the air tasking orders with a two week prior notice from the AMC (Air Mobility Center) center at Ramstein. The USAFE AMC is responsible for airlift missions within its area of operations and directly controls a number of 351st ARS KC-135s.

Supported exercises in 2010 were: Frisian Flag (Royal Netherlands air force) and Brilliant Ardent (NATO) in April 2010 and the NATO Tiger Meet in October. The first two exercises ran at the same time but both got cancelled due to the volcanic activity in Iceland with the volcanic ash disrupting both civil and military flights in large parts of Europe.

Aircraft maintenance is the responsibility of the members of the 100th Maintenance group. Despite the age of the aircraft which is around 50 years the maintainers succeed in having the KC-135s assigned to flying status. Only the aircraft undergoing the 60-day scheduled inspections or depot maintenance which is carried out at the air logistics center (ALC) at Tinker AFB, OK are withdrawn from flight operations.

All flights performed by the 351st ARS start with the aircraft inspection prior to the flight. The plane captain together with the crew chief will do their walk around the aircraft for visual inspections as well as working through the aircraft check-list. After completing these checks the plane captain and its co-pilot will start with working through the cockpit checklist. Then ATC ground is contacted for taxi permission. When short of the runway the tower will be contacted to receive departure instructions and clearance and the mission will start. When arriving back at RAF Mildenhall the maintenance crews will signal the aircraft to its parking spot and apply the chocks. The aircraft log book is handed over to the crew chief and all malfunctions (if any arose during flight) reported. Depending on this the aircraft will either be readied for its next flight receiving fuel for itself as well as receivers or the malfunction will be solved. This can be done on the flight line but when needed the KC-135 are towed to one of the hangars available to the 100th Maintenance Group.
The maintenance crews are also responsible for sending aircraft back to the US for depot maintenance. For instance corrosion inspection is performed at the ALC. The KC-135 will then be stripped to a bare minimum allowing them to cross the Atlantic Ocean. To keep the 100th ARW on its assigned strength a ‘new’ aircraft will be send to the unit. This can be one of the aircraft who completed depot maintenance or a machine of another air refueling wing. It will then undergo the aircraft acceptance procedure which will take five-six days to complete. Then the aircraft will receive the 100th ARW markings being the boxed D on the tail and 100th Bomb Group nose art reflecting the history of the wing. Based on USAF regulations one aircraft of a wing or squadron will carry the ‘Let’s role’ nose art.


The maintainers of the 100th Operations Group not only support the 100th ARW but also any other air refueling unit in the USAFE operations area. The easiest is that a KC-135 reporting a malfunction diverts to RAF Mildenhall to receive maintenance but when not possible the 100th Operations Group will deploy its personal to the base where support is needed. Supporting the USAF like this saves a lot of money because own maintainers don’t have to be send out from the US.


100th Air Refueling Wing statistics:

Statistics 2010 2009
     
Number of aircraft: 15 15
Flight hours: 6.226 6.467
Missions flown: 1.491 1.650
Amount of fuel delivered (pounds): 42 million 45 million
Number of receivers: 3.952 5.105
     

Note: statistic data for 2010 till early November 2010.

With the dedication of the 100th ARW personal not only the USAF but also NATO partners are able to execute their missions. The wing provides the USAF the opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean by picking up or bringing away transiting aircraft. NATO is supported during exercises and individual countries can request support to keep their pilots air refueling qualified.

The author would like to thank: SSgt Austin May 100th ARW Public Affairs, MSgt Fernandez 100th Maintenance Group and the members of the 100th Operations Group for their support.
 
Photogallery
 
One of the KC-135Rs on the ramp. A number of KC-135 have been modified with a drogue/hose unit on the wings.
     
Training of aircraft de-icing, here with a KC-135R, starts every autumn.  
 
Supporting the NATO Tiger Meet 2010
 
The 351st Air Refuelling Squadron supported the NATO Tiger Meet 2010 held at Volkel Air Base, The Netherlands from its home base RAF Mildenhall. Photo's NTM 2010 afternoon mission October 8th, 2010. Refuelling took place over the North Sea near the Danish coast and saw F-16s from Belgium, Netherlands and Norway joining the KC-135R.
 
Belgian F-16AM approaching the KC-135R. and leaving the boom after refuelling.
     
Next to arrive was a three-ship of Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AMs.  
     
RNLAF flight lead flying behind the tanker.

RNLAF F-16s leaving to continue their mission.


The Norwegian 'Tiger' F-16AM also visited for refuel and flew in formation for a photograph.
 
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M. Jaarsma - Phantomaviation.nl