Mildenhall hosts 5th annual European Tanker Symposium

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christine Groening
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted 13 NATO nations during the 5th annual European Tanker Symposium, May 14-18.

The symposium, held every year since 2012, allows NATO allies to share their experiences, discuss mixed tanker formation standards, and build on tanker integration.

The week-long event included mixed formation academics, discussions and flights in a KC-135 Stratotanker and a Royal Air Force Voyager. Ultimately, the event was to establish and initialize best practices when flying in a multinational formation, and the goal was once again achieved.

“This is one of the first times that we’ve gotten together as European partners to specifically concentrate on these tactics, techniques and procedures on how we operate together,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Mach, 100th Operations Group deputy commander. “Being able to fly on the airplanes, we can all get an idea of the countries that don’t normally do formation flying together, and we can start building those procedures.”

Flying in a multinational tanker formation is something the ETS is trying to safely create. During the days leading to the formation flight, aircrew shared differences in the terminology and procedures they each use.

“I think the procedures have remained largely the same,” said RAF Flt. Lt. Elizabeth Herbert, RAF Voyager captain. “It’s the fundamental basics that are important -- remaining a safe distance from each other when you meet up, and ensuring that you can remain in a close formation. It doesn’t really matter what large aircraft you have in that scenario; providing we maintain these techniques, the type of large aircraft – whether currently or in the future – doesn’t matter.”

Conducting these flights will ensure all countries are able to safely and cohesively fly together and complete the mission at hand.

“One of the big things we’ve learned is how eager our European partners are to work together,” said Maj. Max Hinton, 100th OG plans and programs officer. “It’s been really cool to have everyone in the same room and to have that dialogue. A lot of times, the distance can be a barrier, so having the opportunity to get this many nations together at one time is vital in making sure we’re all on the same page. I’d say the biggest thing is just realizing that there is an appetite for greater integration and working together in the European theater.”