May 15, 2012

U.S. Air Force hosts European Tanker Symposium

Story and Photos by SrA. Rachel Waller
RAF Mildenhall, England

Capt. Aaron Marx (right) demonstrates the capabilities of a KC-135 Stratotanker to Royal Air Force Flt. Lt. Damian Massingham in a flight simulator at Royal Air Force Mildenhall on May 11, 2012. The flight simulator session was part of the European Tanker Symposium, a multinational training event. Marx is an instructor pilot with the 351st Air Refueling Squadron.

The 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted the European Tanker Symposium at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 9-11.

Attendees included the Royal Air Force 101 Squadron, French air force Bretagne Sqadron, Italian air force 14 Wing, Belgium air component, and the U.S. Air Force 603rd Air and Space Operations Center from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The ETS aimed to help strengthen relationships between the 100th ARW and its NATO allies by networking and sharing experiences for continued operational success during future joint endeavors.

A French air force C-135FR is parked in front of a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during the European Tanker Symposium, at Royal Air Force Mildenhall on May 11, 2012. Airmen from RAF Mildenhall and visiting forces had the opportunity to see inside these aircraft and an Italian air force KC-767.

The idea for the ETS was inspired by Operation Unified Protector, which was the first time many of the aircrews had the opportunity to work with NATO allies during non-training operations.

“During the operation, improvements were identified that, if implemented, could have made communication easier,” said Capt. Adam Dalson, an event coordinator from the 100th Operations Group.

The lack of experience, limited knowledge about the other NATO allies and the different languages were some of the challenges faced during Operation Unified Protector, Dalson said.

To help alleviate these challenges for any future NATO operations, the 100th ARW created the symposium. The symposium included briefings and guided discussions about lessons learned from Operation Unified Protector and the future of European refueling as well as a familiarization ride in an American KC-135 Stratotanker flight simulator.

In addition, each country’s representatives had the opportunity to teach the other attendees their aerial refueling capabilities. Everyone was also able to tour a KC-135, an Italian KC-767 and a French C-135FR.

Overall, participants said the ETS was and instant success, and they are looking forward to a follow-up event in the future.

“There were some great discussions, which was very good,” said Belgium air component 1st Lt. Christophe De Greef, of the Movement Coordinator Center Europe. “When you go to a meeting, you only have time to give your presentation, that’s it. Here, we had a lot of time to discuss whatever we had to discuss with issues. Hopefully we can work them out for next time and bring some solutions to the table.”

“The symposium has been a larger success than I could have hoped for,” said Dalson. “Everybody was incredibly helpful and really engaged.”

An Italian air force KC-767 taxis on the flightline at Royal Air Force Mildenhall on May 11, 2012. The aircraft and crew were at the base as part of the European Tanker Symposium, a multinational training event.

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