BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA -- Throughout the duration of Talisman Sabre 19 (TS19), a biannual exercise on the east coast of Australia, nearly 300 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft participated in major air operations. Out of those aircraft, three provided the fuel necessary to keep the others in the sky.
Three U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft played a major role in supporting air operations during TS19; two of which are assigned to Travis Air Force Base, California, the other from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Capt. Andrew Parris, 6th Air Refueling Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, California, detachment deputy, explained the importance of having refuelers in the air to maintain the exercise air fight.
“Being able to keep assets in the air and extend combat operations is entirely dependent on the presence of aerial refueling,” he said. “You just can’t do without it.”
The Extenders took turns in the air during the month-long exercise, completing more than 20 flights, providing more than 2.2 million pounds of fuel to nearly 300 receiving aircraft.
In order to maintain such a rigorous flying schedule, the KC-10s were maintained by members of their home bases: the 305th and 605th Air Maintenance Squadrons with JB McGuire, and the 60th AMXS with Travis AFB.
Prior to the arrival of Travis AFB personnel, McGuire’s seven-person team had four days to focus on ensuring their single aircraft was able to fly on schedule, stay in the air and quickly turn around for back-to-back flights.
“My team worked extremely long days to get things done,” said Master Sgt. Joe Dawson, 605th AMXS production superintendent. “We ensured our jet was good to go, on time, every time for nine flights within four days.”
The 305th and 605th AMXS worked together to refuel, troubleshoot and effectively maintain their aircraft, which eliminated the usual need for a larger team of separate Air Force specialty codes.
“We’re beginning to expand our capabilities beyond just maintenance,” said Tech. Sgt. Jerret Hupp, 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “This sort of innovation allows our maintainers the chance to become more well-rounded in and out of the military. It ultimately saves a huge amount of time, evens out the workload and makes each one of us more valuable.”
Parris noted the maintenance success and prompt turnaround times played a huge role in
making sure air operations remained on schedule, especially considering only two jets were actively in use at a time.
“It just goes to show how much fuel we can consistently deliver to the fight, even with minimal aircraft,” Parris said. “This is proof with a good set of maintainers and aircrew, we can get out there and put a lot of fuel in the air.”
By the completion of TS19 on July 25, the KC-10’s will have accomplished more than 20 flights totaling nearly 100 flying hours, all within 10 flying days.