TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Ca --
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen from the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons and the 660th Maintenance Squadron participated in an off-station training mission designed to enhance tanker Agile Combat employment capabilities at Daytona, Florida, Feb. 27 through March 3, 2023.
The operation presented rare scenarios for crews to problem-solve and familiarized the air crew with self-sustaining support procedures while en route to a simulated deployed location with no military support.
“This off-station training mission was a huge step toward meeting a number of the 60th Air Mobility Wing’s ‘Scheme of Maneuver’ objectives and, ultimately, honing our ability to confidently meet an enemy in any future conflict,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Stephen Rose, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender Pilot. “This mission was a springboard which launched us into a unique environment, which will likely look much like one we may be operating in.”
Minimally manned air crews performed multiple functions with little support in an operationally limited environment upon landing at a non-military location.
“We maintained consistent operation flow with the help of Civil Air Patrol on standby for any emergency response or ground services needs that could rise,” said Schroeder. “The personnel from Sheltair, Daytona International Airport Daytona and Lakeland Regional Airport were also instrumental in facilitating our self-servicing fuel operations.”
Sheltair is a privately-owned company whose primary focus is to provide aircraft refueling capabilities. The Air Force contracted the civilian company to provide augmented airfield support.
“We provided basic support such as air stairs, disposal of waste and fuel among other things,” said Erika Estrada,” Sheltair general manager. “Although we are typically used to working with smaller aircraft, the whole operation went pretty smooth. Communication was good and overall it was a great experience supporting the Air Force mission.”
Over the course of seven sorties, the crew refueled 39 aircraft with more than 375,000 pounds of fuel.
During the operation, 34 out of the 39 aircraft refueled were F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Base, Florida, as a part of their three-week training exercise at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
“One of our goals throughout the mission was to sustain fuel operations and get our aircraft off the ground as soon as possible to ensure the fighters could complete their mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Schroeder, 9th ARS KC-10 flight engineer.
Crews were challenged to conduct manual load planning to simulate broken, damaged software and relied on alternative means of communications such as Military Auxiliary Radio Systems for point-to-point communication during simulated loss of comms.
The mission provided crews the opportunity to practice their skills and gain confidence to execute if called upon to support a fight against a near-peer adversary in a contested environment.