CV-22 Osprey aircraft, assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., performed Tactical Air-Refueling missions with a KC-10 Extender aircraft March 7-11, over the Southwest region of the U.S.
The KC-10 crew, assigned to the 6th Air Refueling Squadron, traveled from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., to rendezvous with the Osprey aircraft at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet where they conducted multiple TAR missions.
“We are very familiar with our own Air Force Special Operations Command counterparts and have a habitual relationship of getting fuel from them,” said Lt. Col. Charles Mauzé, 20th SOS commander. “So when we have a chance to train with Air Mobility Command aircraft like the KC-10, we jump at the opportunity because that type of asset provides a whole new set of capabilities for us.”
The increase in capabilities is directly related to the KC-10’s capacity to hold a large amount of fuel. Between the six different fuel tanks designed into the frame, the aircraft can hold more than 350,000 pounds of fuel – more than seven times the holding capacity of the MC-130J Commando II aircraft, the familiar AFSOC counterpart Mauzé spoke of.
However, the process of giving and receiving fuel is not universal throughout the different airframes that explains the crucial role this training provides between the two major commands.
“The refueling happens at a considerably lower speed and lower altitude compared to other receivers,” said Senior Airman Mason Wells, 6th ARS boom operator. “As a result, the propellers from the CV-22 tend to create an air buffer between themselves and the aft portion of our aircraft, which makes it feel like they are pushing us out of a level flight path and moving us around. To say the least, it is a very different feeling.”
That different feeling is not only felt by the tanker and boom operator but by the Osprey pilots as well.
“Air refueling differs from aircraft to aircraft which is why it’s important to conduct this training so our pilots familiarize themselves with the different procedures associated with the KC-10,” Mauzé said. “Factors such as the air flow behind the tanker feeling different and the change in altitude are dynamics our pilots need to experience and be aware of. Basically, when we have to perform it down range for a real mission, we want our pilots to think, I’ve done this before, I know how it feels.”
According to Mauzé, that’s ultimately what the purpose of this training comes down to: To have proficient air refueling in a deployed location so that the capabilities of the CV-22 aircraft can be performed longer and more frequently knowing they have the security of a gas station flying overhead.
Those abilities were on display as the 20th SOS also performed Combat Search and Rescue training, low-level water training, rescue winch hoist training and operating the .50-caliber GAU-21 as a ramp-mounted weapon system.
All that was possible in a day’s workload with the fuel provided by the tanker. Its vital role is known by its members who take pride in providing a unique asset to the Air Force’s priorities and lethality.
“Our training only further demonstrates the importance and the necessity of the KC-10, proving yet again that our capabilities as an aircraft to deliver fuel, cargo, and personnel simultaneously are unmatched by any other asset in the Air Force inventory,” Wells said.