Last night saw American aircraft conduct a significant number of refuelling exercises off the British coast with two KC-135 aircraft refuelling MC-130Js and V-22s simultaneously on the east and west coast.
While the act of American refuelling aircraft refuelling American aircraft off the British coast isn’t unusual, it’s not common for so many to be in the air at the same time conducting this training. Not to say that this is a sign of anything interesting, it’s just not something that happens every week and I found it interesting.
While the aircraft show as C-130J on tracking, given their home base of RAF Mildenhall and the registration showing on the tracking, it is likely that they’re MC-130J aircraft of the 352nd Special Operations Wing. Additionally, the KC-135 aircraft from Mildenhall appear to be part of the 100th Air Refueling Wing.
Simultaneously, another two American C-130Js are refuelling from another KC-135 off Newcastle, over the North Sea. pic.twitter.com/Fq5vbUsbfI
— George Allison (@geoallison) January 10, 2022
This happened in November last year too.
A #100ARW KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft refuels a @352SOW MC-130J Commando II aircraft over the North Sea during a night aerial refueling mission on Nov. 2, 2021.💪✈️🌍#readiness#agile#exercise pic.twitter.com/sb405RUurh
— RAF Mildenhall (@RAFMildenhall) November 24, 2021
Where are these units based?
The KC-135s are from RAF Mildenhall. The British base is host to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the only air United States Air Force refuelling wing in Europe. Mildenhall essentially serves as a bridge between the US and Europe and the Middle East, allowing aircraft to refuel mid-air or resupply on the airfield before continuing to their destination.
The MC-130Js are, according to Lockheed Martin, “multimission combat transport/special operations tankers capable of worldwide employment for missions requiring clandestine single- or multi-ship low-level aerial refuelling of Special Operation Force vertical and tilt-rotor aircraft and/or infiltration, resupply and exfiltration by airdrop, or landing on remote airfields”, they’re also based at RAF Mildenhall and are part of the 352nd Special Operations Wing.