USAF tankers enable Talisman Saber, Australia allies

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas -- In the pre-dawn light, four active duty and guard KC-135 Stratotankers launched July 12 in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2017.

U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defense Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command sponsors the Talisman Saber 2017, which incorporates components from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines as well as the Australian Defense Force.

The 349th Air Refueling Squadron from McConnell led the aerial refueling support. Aircraft from the Ohio National Guard, Arizona National Guard and Iowa National Guard also participated in the mission. 

“The primary mission of the KC-135 is to provide rapid global refueling, any time, any place,” said Lt. Col. John Harbour, 349th ARS KC-135 detachment commander. “Our main role in Talisman Saber 2017 is to extend the reach of aircraft like the U.S.’s and Australia’s C-17 Globemaster III.” 

The focus of the exercise is to enhance relationships between service members as well as improve the U.S. and Australia’s ability to work bilaterally and multilaterally. More than 21 naval ships, 200 joint aircraft and thousands of personnel are scheduled to take part in the exercise.

“This exercise really gives me a perspective on how important our mission is and how much of an impact we have globally,” said Airman 1st Class Patrick Napolitano, 350th ARS boom operator with less than two months of operational experience. “I never saw myself being able to help a major force like Australia; this has been really eye opening for me.” 

The tanker’s ability to support an exercise like this is just one way the KC-135 has proven itself as the backbone of the Air Force for the last 60 years, and it will continue its legacy well into the future.

“Around 33,000 service members participated in this exercise; this is one of the largest exercises we support,” said Harbour. “We train daily to ensure we are always ready to support our nation and our allies at a moment’s notice.”