Air Force

June 13, 2014

Sky Harbor Copperheads provide for F-16’s global reach, allow more training

Tags:
af.mil

With an F-16 Fighting Falcon only 20 feet away, fuel flows from a KC-135 through its boom to the multipurpose fighter. “Air refueling requires the ability to fly formation in a certain position,” said Maj. Brad Balazs, an F-16 instructor attached to the 152nd Fighter Squadron at the 162nd Wing in Tucson.

As a multipurpose fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is a vital piece of air power for the United States and its allied nations, with its mere presence deterring enemy action, and capable of unleashing fury in and from the skies when needed.

But even with its massive ordnance, maneuvering abilities or the tactical skill-sets acquired by its pilots, bringing the fight to the enemy is not possible without the KC-135 Stratotanker, a cargo and transport aircraft that provides the precious military resource of fuel.

“When we think of air refueling, we think of that global reach a Stratotanker can project to further the fight,” said Capt. Jason Keltner, a KC-135 pilot from Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, home of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, which has adopted the appropriately informal title of “Copperheads.”

According to Keltner, providing that air bridge for multiple types of aircraft in various global theaters is a delicate aerial transaction.

“You’re trusting the Airman to fly 315 knots or better 20 feet away from you, and any kind of jolt can make the situation dangerous very quickly,” he said.

While many Air Force component jobs range from analyzing data from behind a desk, driving a forklift or sitting in a cockpit, Master Sgt. Vincent Jones, a boom operator for the Copperheads, lies on his stomach in a boom pod when he clocks in for the day. With his head positioned on a chin rest and hands on the boom flight control stick and other controls, Jones makes sure that contact is made between receiver and boom.

“Refueling a jet is the epitome of Air Force teamwork,” he said. “Our pilots are upfront doing their part, keeping the platform stable – on speed and altitude – and I am letting them know what’s going on in the back.”

On the opposite end of the team equation, Maj. Brad Balazs, an F-16 instructor pilot attached to the 152nd Fighter Squadron at the 162nd Wing in Tucson, said receiving gas is an exercise in instrument flying, coupled with collaborative efforts built on the understanding of what it takes to make sure the fuel flows.

“As the receiver aircraft, small and precise inputs are required to fly into the correct position,” Balazs said. “We expect the tanker to be on station and on time, ready to be able to plug into the jet and transfer gas. It just goes to show how skilled each of the participants in the whole process really are – to make it happen and get the job done.”

Balazs said that although student-pilots at the wing will always have enough gas to get back to station in the event that a boom can’t hook up to a jet, having an air refueling wing 120 miles north of an international F-16 schoolhouse does have its advantages.

“In training, extra gas will allow the student to accomplish a few more tactical tasks that may make the difference in them understanding the task completely or not,” he said. “We spend a good amount of fuel to get to the tanker; so if we don’t take gas, the student will not get the same amount of training as going straight to the airspace.”

“It’s an important skill to learn in the Viper because it has applicability on any mission we might fly,” Balazs said.

In addition to assisting the 162nd Wing to effectively execute its training mission, Stratotankers out of Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base have played prominent roles in humanitarian missions too: It was used for crucial transportation needs during Hurricane Katrina and recently, Copperheads provided air refueling support in a rescue mission involving Chinese sailors aboard a Venezuelan fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Fly, fight & win! Luke plays unique role in AF mission

The mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight and win. The Air Force’s “motto,” as it was originally called, was adopted October 2010. Capt. Gregroy Bollrud of Hurlburt Field Florida, wrote, “It succinctly captures what our Air Force has been renowned for ever since its creation in 1947. Also, the specific choice of...
 
 

Wingman for life

“I look after my wingman. He looks after me. We work together. We fight together.” — Col. Gabby Gabriski, WWII ace Having a wingman has been an essential part of combat flying since the beginning. A wingman is able to watch your “6,” provide support and can offer a different perspective on a situation. These...
 

 
141119-F-HT977-165

Chiefs announced

Senior master sergeants selected for promotion to chief master sergeant at Luke Air Force Base posed in front of the static F-16 Fighting Falcon in front of the wing headquarters building. They are, from left, Kelbey Norton, 56...
 
 

Enlisted promotion system changes continue

WASHINGTON — This January, changes to the Weighted Airman Promotion System will continue with adjustments to the scoring model for promotions to technical sergeant and below, all designed to help ensure job performance is the most important factor when evaluating and identifying Airmen for promotion. The current WAPS enlisted performance report calculation model for technical...
 
 

News Briefs November 21, 2014

Kachina Gate closure The Kachina Gate will be closed to inbound traffic Dec. 8 through 19 for gas valve repair. Outbound traffic will not be affected. For more information, call 623-856-7051. Kids cooking class Kids Kamp Cooking Class is 4 to 6 p.m. for ages 8 to 12 and 7 to 9 p.m. for ages...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin