One of two USAF aircraft recently seen flying over Tuttington is a reminder of our regional military role in world affairs. The plane is a Boeing KC 135R Stratotanker most likely from RAF Mildenhall some 45 miles away (73km as the crow flies) in Suffolk.
The KC 135 Stratotanker – which was developed alongside the Boeing 707 airliner – was the first jet-powered tanker deployed for aerial refueling. It is currently used to refuel US tactical bomber and fighter aircraft. The USAF insignia can be clearly seen on the lower wing. Note also the retracted refuelling apparatus at the rear of the plane.
The conical funnel which captures the input fuel line from the receiving aircraft can be seen at the end of the fuel boom. Closer to the aircraft tailplane can be seen the pair of stabilizer wings which help the boom operator in the Stratotanker guide the boom to the receiving aircraft. The boom method allows rapid transfer of fuel but requires a dedicated operator. The alternative method is use of a drogue which trails from one or both wings. This enables refuelling of more than one aircraft at once without an operator but it is much slower than the boom method.
As a further reminder of the uncertain times in which we live, the KC 135 has recently been deployed to eastern Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The aircraft will be operating under NATO command from a German airbase supporting USAF F-35 Lightning II aircraft patrols in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.