100th Air Refueling Wing’s agility, capability, versatility

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon Esau
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

As the only permanent air refueling component in the European and African areas of responsibility, it is up to the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 351st Air Refueling Squadron to provide global air refueling and combat support to our sister services and allies. 

Since its activation on Feb. 1, 1992, the wing has provided critical in-flight refueling for all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe and Africa. RAF Mildenhall continues to be the leader in providing response capabilities that enable America’s global vigilance, reach and power across the globe.

“It’s truly a Bloody Hundredth team effort to keep the 351st ARS executing the mission 24/7,” said Lt. Col. Brian Barba, 351st ARS director of operations.  “It starts many hours before the mission with the 100th Maintenance Group keeping a more than 60-year-old jet flying with one of the best reliability rates in the fleet. The incredible operations team makes an enormous impact, planning high-level missions. Intelligence, crew communications, tactics, aircrew flight equipment, and our airfield folks make this whole operation come together.”

The agility, capability and versatility of the 100th ARW and 351st ARS is never more evident than when the nation, and our allies, call upon them to deliver fuel to carry out missions authorized at the highest levels of world leadership.

 The wing has performed 545 missions and provided approximately 16 million pounds of fuel to over 1,600 aircraft throughout Europe, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean since the start of fiscal year 2020.

“The KC-135 can be configured to refuel all U.S. and allied aircraft,” Barba said. “We can refuel U.S. Navy or allied aircraft through our Multipoint Refueling System or Boom Drogue Attachment, or refuel using our traditional boom system for Air Force assets.”

“Our versatility to change configurations is a capability that is highly sought after in multilateral training.  Along with air refueling, our crews fly thousands of miles through the night to perform aeromedical evacuations and bring injured or sick personnel to higher echelon care facilities.”

Alongside the daily training aircrews perform, the wing also takes part in numerous exercises and real-world contingencies, to include BALTOPS, Bomber Task Force-Europe, Furious 48, Point Blank, Trident Juncture among others, as a display of commitment to NATO and the U.S.’s continued presence in the region.

“It’s extremely important to strengthen relations with our NATO allies,” said Lt. Col. Ian Slazinik, 351st ARS commander. “The interoperability exercises that secure those bonds at the tactical level, along with bilateral and multilateral exercises, not only develop and redefine our tactics, but also our partner nations’ forces. We also improve our understanding about how we can better integrate with another country’s air force.”

Most recently, the wing took part in a Bomber Task Force-Europe mission in which KC-135 Stratotankers off-loaded fuel to B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, as well as aircraft from the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian air forces. Alongside these aircraft, a KC-10 from the Dutch air force provided fuel to both U.S. and NATO allies to further strengthen partnerships.

“Long-range bomber training missions strengthen our steadfast partnerships with allies across both Europe and Africa and showcase our ability to respond globally from anywhere,” said U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, Gen. Jeff Harrigian. “This mission further enhances our interoperability capabilities by taking groundbreaking steps to incorporate our partners to generate seamless operations.”

As RAF Mildenhall is tasked with high-priority mission sets, Airmen provide not only refueling but also aircraft maintenance and logistics support to remain one of the U.S.’s most visible assets tasked with protecting U.S. interests in Europe.

“Air Refueling is the critical component in global reach,” Slazinik stated. “It allows for aircraft to travel farther, intelligence and reconnaissance to be gathered longer, fighter aircraft to move across vast oceans and allows for the rapid mobility of personnel and supplies around the globe. “
“We allow our Air Force and national leadership to consider actions on a global scale and make a strategic impact within hours. The 100th and 351st work hard every day to strengthen alliances and sharpen skills for missions that lie ahead.”