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Mission accomplished with perfect precision; global reach proven

  • Published
  • By Col. Matt Molineux
  • 6th Operations Group commander
Recently the 6th Air Mobility Wing and 927th Air Refueling Wing launched eight KC-135 stratotanker aircraft with minimum interval timing and perfect precision for the first time in over a decade. The wings continuously practice three-ship formation flights, but rarely set out to execute an event of this magnitude, so it is particularly noteworthy.

The obvious question is why is this significant? Who cares? The simple answer is "Global Reach." This exercise of putting a lot of air refueling assets and hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel in the air in a very short timeframe demonstrates a unique capability that only the United States has--the ability to project airpower anytime and anywhere in the world. No other nation can do this. We have this capability because of our tankers--gas stations in the sky--that deliver fuel to airlift, fighter, and bomber assets continuously and at will.

U.S. forces must provide a rapid, tailored response with a capability to intervene against a well-equipped foe, hit hard and terminate quickly. Rapid global mobility lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in this environment--without the capability to project forces, there is no conventional deterrent. Air refuelers are the lifeline of global reach--increasing range, payloads and flexibility.

As you may know, MacDill closed its runway for routine repairs on Jan. 31. Since our assigned aircraft are required to fulfill worldwide higher headquarters missions even during the runway closure period, we chose this time to disburse our jets to other operating locations. After this momentous large formation takeoff, most of the aircraft conducted missions over the southeastern United States then recovered elsewhere. Runway repairs will take approximately a month and then we'll have the majority of our aircraft back on station.

Executing a large mission such as this takes teamwork. I'm proud of the active duty and reserve operators and maintainers who worked quickly and efficiently to ensure mission success in demonstrating this critical Air Force capability. Do you realize the venerable KC-135 aircraft are over 50 years old? The maintenance professionals in both wings continued to work their magic and accomplished a significant MacDill milestone. I'd say it was a good return on our tax dollars!

Additionally, this exercise demonstrated the excellent relationship we share with the Tampa air traffic controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration. In conjunction with the Tampa controllers, 6th Operations Group air traffic representatives facilitated the massive departure, successfully demonstrating the MacDill Air Force Base airfield and runway as a critical national security and power projection platform.

So, this event was a demonstration of a capability critical to the Air Force's post-Cold War strategy of "global reach - global power," but Gen. Curtis LeMay still would have been proud as the iron leapt off the runway nose to tail and slipped the surly bonds with precision. The Airmen of MacDill executed it perfectly and touched a soft spot in the heart of this Strategic Air Command baby! Great job everyone!