Spectacular photos show American KC-135s refuelling UK jets midair

Spectacular photos show American KC-135s refuelling F15s, British Eurofighter Typhoons and RAF C3s in midair as pilots from the Spanish and Italian air forces look on

  • Pictures were snapped at the European Tanker Symposium at RAF Mildenhall in Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk
  • Event used to test international midair refuelling practice and has happened at RAF Mildenhall since 2012
  • It created after Operation Unified Protector in 2011 – when NATO moved to enforce resolutions in Libya during the Gaddafi regime

Daredevil pilots ran hair-raising refuelling exercises at RAF Mildenhall today – as F15s, British Eurofighter Typhoons and RAF C3s flew just inches from American tankers.

At the centre of these exercises was the US-run KC-135 jet – which can refuel fighter jets and other aircraft mid-air and carry almost 91-tonnes of fuel. 

According to the US Air Force, the KC-135 can also be used to transport cargo or evacuate medical patients.

The US Air Force has been using Boeing KC-135R aircraft since the 1950s and they were initially purchased to support the bombers of the Cold War era Strategic Air Command.

The spectacular photos were taken the European Tanker Symposium (ETS) from RAF Mildenhall in Bury Saint Edmunds.

At the ETS the craft refuelled a number of different fighter jets including F15s, British Eurofighter Typhoons and RAF C3s.   

A view of the cockpit: Pilots look out from a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle as it is refuelled by a US Air Force KC-135

High off the coast of East Anglia: Eurofighter Typhoons are viewed from a US Air Force KC-135 during this year’s European Tanker Symposium

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    Two British Eurofighter Typhoons fly next to one another during a refuelling excercise at RAF Mildenhall

    The KC-135 is based on the original design of the Boeing 707 passenger aircraft although it has been extensively modified since entering service in 1956. Pictured: A RAF C3 approaches a U.S Air Force KC-135 for refuelling

    The ETS, was held for the first time at RAF Mildenhall in 2012 and was inspired by Operation Unified Protector in 2011 – in which NATO moved to enforce resolutions in Libya during the Gaddafi regime. Pictured: A F15 approaches a U.S Air Force KC-135 for refuelling

    Refuelling tankers in that operation discovered a number of weaknesses in air refuelling practices, especially between different nations – and the ETS was founded the solve these issues

    ‘The purpose of the ETS is to increase communication between European tanker units in order to foster increased interoperability,’ said First Lieutenant Bobby Stanford who pilots the 100th Operations Group KC-135 Stratotanker

    ‘It also allows units to discuss best practices that have been seen in their experiences as well as other problems that are facing the tanker community’

    From inside the jet: Observers watch a boom operator carefully adjust the refuelling equipment from inside a KC-135 

    Members of the Spanish and Italian Air Force watch intently as a U.S Airforce KC-135 boom operator refuels a RAF C3 midair

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