JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii –
Members of the 96th Air Refueling Squadron launched four KC-135 Stratotankers to conduct their final mission, or "Fini" flight, here June 11.
According to Lt Col. Jason Work, 96th ARS commander, due to the upcoming deactivation of the squadron, this was the last operational mission for them.
To mark the historic final mission, the Stratotankers showed a range of KC-135 capabilities by conducting aerial refueling and defensive maneuvering as a four ship.
"It was a unique opportunity; we do not get to go up in a four ship very often," Work said. "Hawaii offers a great training opportunity, because there is so much air space, and [maintenance] was gracious enough to generate all four aircraft, so we could go out and fly."
Each KC-135 executed refueling operations for six F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron. The four ship also completed defensive maneuvering by practicing how to react as a four ship to an air-to-air or surface-to-air threat. The defensive maneuvering included in-place turns, scatter turns, combat descends and defensive climbs maneuvers, rejoining at the end of the training to the four-ship formation.
"This is one of those times when you really show the merits of a squadron and how disciplined they are, when you do large ship formations," Work said. "This is the first opportunity that most of the aircrews have had to operate as a four ship, performing defensive maneuvering and everyone performed perfectly. All the maneuvering was very safe."
Once on the ground, their families and the squadron leadership greeted the aircrews with leis, water guns and water hoses to celebrate the final mission.
"It is nice to get all of the squadron together to fly as a four ship; we don't get a lot of opportunities to do that," said Capt. Britton Adamson, 96th ARS pilot. "We had the new pilots flying with the older pilots and landing was great seeing all the families and leadership coming out to the flight line as we parked. It is bittersweet leaving, but it was a gratifying thing to be a part of as we finish our mission."
The 96th ARS will hold a deactivation ceremony in September, marking the end of their five years of service as a total force integration squadron at the 15th Wing.