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MacDill supports CONR-1AF, Operation Noble Defender with aerial refueling

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Mission readiness requires that members of the Air Force be prepared to respond to duty anytime, anywhere.

Under the direction of CONR-1AF, the 6th Air Refueling Wing provided aerial refueling in an arctic environment Mar. 16 for Canadian CF-18 Hornet aircraft in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command's Operation Noble Defender.

NORAD is the United States and Canada bi-national organization that operates alongside United States Northern Command to conduct aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America.

As stated in a strategy summary by Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, competitors and potential adversaries have watched how the United States works with Canada in deterring, competing and conducting war over the last few decades. With the advancement of our competitor’s capabilities and their increased activity in the Arctic, unified continental defense is a critical component for remaining strong at home.  

Capt. Tyler Hannah, 91st Air Refueling Squadron pilot, was the aircraft commander for the successful refueling mission which centered around aircraft training intercept operations.

“The 6th ARW’s involvement in OND shows that the wing is ready to respond when needed in any type of climate around the world, from the Arctic region to desert climates in the Middle East,” Hannah said. “Although personnel within the 6th ARW are used to the hot, tropical climate of Florida, the exercise displayed our wing’s abilities to adapt to a much different climate than what we are accustomed to.”

Multiple units from the 6th ARW played a role in OND. The 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron provided members with essential cold-weather gear for sub-zero temperatures. The 6th Maintenance Group ensured that the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft used for refueling was equipped with a boom drogue adapter for the arctic environment, and the 91st ARS provided aircrew members to perform the mission.

“Weather is always a critical factor when operating in the Arctic region,” Hannah said. “Operating in sub-zero temperatures with snow and ice present pose unique challenges, such as the need for aircraft de-icing, warming up engines and hydraulics prior to taxi, and landing in less than ideal weather conditions. Our ability to operate in these conditions showcases the 6th ARW’s resiliency and ability to adapt to any climate around the world.”

Maintainers from the 6th Maintenance Group were responsible for preparing the tanker aircraft for flight and aerial refueling prior to the aircraft intercept mission.

“The 6th MXG was able to deliver because each member was efficiently trained and understood the importance of why we were there,” said Senior Airman Jeremiah Greene, 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “Our leadership did a great job of making sure we had all the resources we needed to be fully mission capable.”

Despite this mission being the first time many of the maintainers have experienced arctic weather conditions, they were able to operate and provide the necessary pre-flight tasks for the KC-135.

“We’re ready whenever,” Greene said. “It’s important to be able to adapt because the mission can take place anywhere.”

This exercise put on display the rapid air mobility capabilities of the 6th ARW in an arctic environment as well as NORAD’s commitment to the United States and Canada working together to deter adversaries and achieve a globally integrated layered defense.