|In order to gather information and images for my report (see link above) on the 25th anniversary of the NATO E-3A Component at Geilenkirchen, an air to air refuelling flight was arranged with the deployed Air National Guard (126 ARW/108ARS) KC-135E Stratotankers.
The images below are presented as a gallery of those taken during the flight. The lens used throughout was a Canon 24-105mm L IS. Getting shots without the boom in the shot is the challenge, it requires the 'boomer' to ask the pilot of the receiving aircraft if he can oblige. Usually after the refuelling has taken place the receiver will be able to drop away a little while the boom is raised to give a clear shot.
The mission in KC-135E (59-1489) callsign 'ESSO 76' was to AAR two NATO E-3As. After spooling up the four CFM56 engines, pilot Capt. Nick Babiak made his way to the end of Geilenkirchen's 10,009 foot (3,050m) runway before throttling up to full power for take-off. Departing to the north we made our way to the narrow AAR track known as 'Kim' which just touches the coast of Germany one of three for AAR tracks in use by the tankers. The co-pilot Capt. Gary Bodony, who described himself as a 'Guard bum', at first make radio contact before maintaining a visual lookout for the receiving E-3. They also have available the Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TACS) which locates the aircraft. The E-3 approaches from 1,000 feet below the tankers altitude, before clearance is given by the Boom Operator, today SmSgt Matt Glover, to come forward to the lowered and extended boom. The 'boomer' maintains radio contact with the receiver throughout the refuelling exercise and is responsible for informing regularly the pilots of the current situation. The first E-3A (LX-N90458) to require gas and using callsign 'NATO 14' took 20,000lbs (9,072kgs) of fuel followed by a second E-3A (LX-N90459) using callsign 'NATO 13' it received 10,000lbs (4,536kgs) of fuel. For this AAR mission the second E-3A requested numerous practice hook-ups with the KC-135, swapping pilots over once the required number had been successfully completed.