KC-135 missions bring airpower to the Baltic region
by Senior Airman Michael Battles
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
POWIDZ, Poland — In support of Baltic Operations 2015, two U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th and 507th air refueling wings conducted several refueling missions over the Baltic Sea on June 15 and 16.
BALTOPS is a multinational maritime exercise in Poland, Sweden, Germany, and throughout the Baltic Sea, including participation from 14 NATO and three partner nations from June 5 to 20.
As part of the series of two-day refueling missions, the U.S. refueled F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th Fighter Squadron, along with Swedish Gripens and German Tornados.
According to Capt. Norman Popp, 100th ARW pilot, flying missions with NATO and its partners is all about interoperability.
“Flying the missions allows us to be more flexible and work with our allies and partners,” Popp said. “We work with them downrange, so it’s important that we learn now. So when it really counts, we already know how each other operate.”
Participating nations include Norway, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Canada, France, Denmark, Georgia, Estonia, Finland, Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the United States.
“Overall, our experience with the U.S. Air Force is great, actually, because for many years, we cooperate with each other,” said Lt. Col. Krzysztof Szymaniec, 33rd Air Transport Base Operations Group commander. “Every time we extent our capabilities during things like [BALTOPS], we develop our training and flying. The training is very important for the Polish air force and Poland.”
Along with building and maintaining partnerships, exercises such as BALTOPS also allow KC-135 crews to practice and train on their aircraft, as well as their counterparts, said Tech. Sgt, Dave Thoresen.
“BALTOPS is allowing us to not only work with our partners, but to also train with our fellow U.S. KC-135 assets,” Thoresen said.
Throughout the refueling missions, crews from each participating refueling unit will switch aircraft to familiarize themselves with KC-135s that are not their own. Operated by a three-person crew, the KC-135 is capable of carrying up to 202 thousand pounds of cargo and can refuel any boom-enabled aircraft whether U.S. or foreign nation.
Among the Airmen deployed to Poland in support of BALTOPS are participants from the 100th, 916th, and 507th Air Refueling Wings, as well as 14 F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th and 157th Fighter Squadrons, and three B-52 Stratofortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing.