Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | March 3, 2020

Alaska Air National Guard Refuels C-130 at 20,000 Feet

By Sgt. Ian Withrow Alaska National Guard Public Affairs 

EILSON AFB, Alaska — Pilots crowded around a long, wooden table inside a briefing room early on the morning of Feb. 27 to receive their mission. The day’s tasks: a series of touch-and-go landings followed by mid-air refueling.

The KC-135 Stratotanker crews prepared to board would meet up with a C-130 Hercules in the air over Fairbanks, Alaska, to pass fuel, which would allow the C-130 to push further north as part of Arctic Eagle 20, a joint, multinational, arctic exercise being conducted across Alaska and hosted by the Alaska National Guard.

This act, known colloquially as “random air refueling,” is just one skill that these highly trained experts keep in constant practice, alongside other technical maneuvers. In theory, the action is a simple one. The KC-135 is equipped with a long, remote controlled boom that enables it to move fuel from its tanks to those of a properly-equipped friendly aircraft. The C-130 simply pulls up behind and below, and maneuvers itself into position, where the boom links with a port above the cockpit.

“We’ll be at 20,000 feet over the Fairbanks VOR [local navigational area], and we’ll meet up with them [the C-130],” said Capt. Julie Keeney, an Alaska National Guardsman and pilot with the 168th Air Wing.

The reality, however, is that the aircraft are a combined 230 feet long, and each is moving in excess of 240 miles per hour. Careful piloting and constant radio communication allows the two aircraft to act as one in the hands of the operators.

Ultimately, the lynchpin of a refueling operation is the boom operator, an airman who lies prone in a special cradle and directs the movement of both aircraft as well as the boom itself. Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Sartin is one such operator, an Alaska National Guardsman of 10 years, who has been stationed out of Eilson since 2013.

“Instead of sitting in an office, and just sitting at a desk, I get to go fly every day and refuel airplanes at high speed,” Sartin said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

The refueling mission was a small but vital piece of the larger exercise, and one of many such pieces that together allow a massive, multinational effort to be successful.

The difficulty inherent in performing such aerial feats seems nothing short of a miracle, but for these professionals, it’s just another day at work.

Like Us
Follow Us



7th Fleet Destroyer Conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) conducts routine underway operations. Benfold is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Jan. 20, 2022 - SOUTH CHINA SEA -- On Jan. 20, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law. At the conclusion of the operation, USS Benfold exited...

Coast Guard Cutters begin Operation Aiga in Oceania
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) on patrol off the coast of Waikiki, July 4, 2018. The Joseph Gerczak's crew participated in an operation to keep swimmers and boaters safe during a Fourth of July celebration on the waters off Waikiki.
Jan. 20, 2022 - HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper (WLB 201) and Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) will aim to extend the Coast Guard’s at-sea enforcement presence in the region through a 40-day patrol.“Aiga,” the Samoan...

NMCB-5 Concludes Indo-Pacific Deployment, NMCB-3 Assumes Authority of Naval Construction Force Tasking in the Indo-Pacific
Command Master Chief Martin Laurie (left), Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, hands the battalion flag to Utilitiesman 1st Class Sabino Martinez during a relief in place/transfer of authority (RIP/TOA) ceremony onboard Camp Shields in Okinawa, Jan. 18. This RIP/TOA marked the official completion of NMCB-5's deployment in the region. NMCB-5 is homeported in Port Hueneme, California. The Seabees will train on high-quality construction, expeditionary logistics, and combat operations during the homeport phase. They execute construction and engineering projects to support Major Combat Operations, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance
Jan. 20, 2022 - OKINAWA, Japan -- U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 transferred authority of Naval Construction Force tasking in the Indo-Pacific region to NMCB-3 during a relief in place/transfer of authority (RIP/TOA)...

Simplified Human/Machine Interfaces Top List of Critical DOD Technologies
An announcement was made by the Department of Defense June 3 that will bring enormous advantages, as well as responsibilities, to San Antonio and the region. Joint Base San Antonio is one of 12 select installations where the department will experiment and test fifth-generation, or 5G, communications technology.
Jan. 20, 2022 - WASHINGTON -- A modern-day cell phone packs quite a wallop when it comes to computing technology and capability. But most cell phones barely come with a "quick start guide," let alone an instruction manual that spells out how...

Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 Completes the Inaugural Multinational Underwater Repair Exercise with the Republic of Korea Navy UCT
Divers from the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) Underwater Construction Team (UCT) and the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Construction Team TWO (UCT-2) perform underwater exothermic cutting during the Multinational Underwater Repair Exercise (MUREX) 2021 in Apra Harbor, Guam, Dec. 21, 2021. This is the first-ever MUREX, an exercise designed to develop interoperability in underwater construction operations, build diving expertise, and foster comradery between the ROKN UCT and the U.S. Navy’s UCT-2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit ONE (MDSU-1).
Jan. 20, 2022 - APRA HARBOR, Guam -- Divers from the U.S. Navy’s (USN) Underwater Construction Team TWO (UCT 2 ) Construction Diving Detachment ALFA (CDD/A), Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit ONE (MDSU-1), and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN)...