In mid February the KC-135 tankers from RAF Mildenhall deployed to
RAF Fairford in preparation for their home runway being re-surfaced.
Even though the two bases are no more than 200 miles apart this
didn’t affect the number of people and amount of equipment needed.
As well as providing the same level of air refuelling capability as
the Wing did from Mildenhall their aircraft also had to be washed,
maintained and inspected like they would have been back home.
Trucks and tanker aircraft moved all of needed cargo to Fairford,
60,000lbs more than they took when deploying for Operation Iraqi
Freedom and moved in less than half the time it took back then too.
To date it’s been the largest movement in the Wing’s history.
Along with the mission equipment over 530 personnel deployed, most
were from Mildenhall others were from other USAF bases in Europe.
Over 200 of these were mission support, another 200 were aircraft
maintenance, nearly 80 operations and command staff and 40 members
from the 352nd Special Operations Group’s Maintenance Squadron.
As well as the 530 deployed personnel the tanker mission depended
heavily on the 500 members of the 424th ABS to provide an air base
capable of real world operations.
Although the 100th
ARW has 15 aircraft assigned to it Fairford only ever had 14 on base
and that was only for a very brief period. As much as possible one
aircraft was kept at RAF Lakenheath where it was used for ground
training and to let members of the Wing who didn’t deploy keep their
flying qualifications current. The others that weren’t at Fairford
were either on temporary duties supporting on-going operations
around the world or helping fighter aircraft deploy across
continents which often involved stopping at several bases en-route.
Even when forward
deployed to Fairford crews and aircraft often forward deployed again
to wherever their missions took them. In fact within the first 10
days of the move to Fairford the 100th’s KC-135s had been to South
Africa, Eastern Europe, Nellis AFB Nevada, South-west Asia and the
Netherlands, however every mission tasking given throughout the six
month deployment was met regardless of where the aircraft were at
|All of the
aircrew and most of the support crews were on a 3 and 2 rotation,
spending 3 weeks at Fairford then 2 weeks back at Mildenhall. On
average people spent 95 days at Fairford over the duration of the
runway closure however as the number of crews was reduced at
weekends a number of people were able to get a bus home for short
Adding over 500 extra people to RAF Fairford changed the pace of
life on base. The dining hall served nearly 14,000 meals in the
first 20 days, visitors to the fitness centre trebled and the
bowling centre had on average over 400 people a day visiting.
KC-135s is a busy task normally but the experiences of deploying for
Operation Iraqi Freedom meant ground crews were familiar with
operating at forward deployment bases. Their job was to support over
580 hours of flying a month made of an average of 5 missions a day
during the week. Additional operational support missions were
sometimes flown at the weekends, an example was when President Bush
came to Europe in June.
The pace of missions meant 30 aircraft washes had to be done on
Fairford’s wash racks and 6 phase maintenance inspections needed
completing at Fairford. These ‘ISO’ inspections saw more people
deployed and kept an aircraft in the hangar for just over a week at
It was always known
that the RIAT air show in July would influence tanker operations in
some way but luck was on the 100th’s side. The runway work at
Mildenhall had gone faster than planned with the unusually warm
spring weather. Rather than forward deploy again the aircraft were
able to fly home to Mildenhall in early July. When the time came to
depart the 100th had flown more than 400 missions from Fairford and
offloaded over 12.5 million pounds of fuel.
Information for this article came from the 100th ARW
Public Affairs, RAF Mildenhall.