CONR-1AF conducts first-ever in theater C-17 special refueling operations during AD 21-1

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  • By CONR-1AF (AFNORTH) Public Affairs

In support of the North American Aerospace Defense and Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) homeland defense missions, Continental U.S. NORAD Region – 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) achieved a first-ever milestone June 16. U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 140th Wing, Buckley Space Force Base, Aurora, Colo., and the 4th Airlift Squadron, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., performed a C-17 Globemaster aircraft wet-wing refueling during the Arctic air defense exercise Amalgam Dart 21-01 at Thule Air Base, Greenland.

“Amalgam Dart provides NORAD and USNORTHCOM the opportunity to exercise U.S. Air Force Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concepts from forward operating locations across the northern approaches to North America,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, Commander of CONR-1AF (AFNORTH). “Through wet-wing refueling operations we reduce our reliance on standard fuel storage distribution points. This enables our fighter aircraft to disperse and operate from more locations.”

The Special Fueling Operations (SFO) exercise was the first in a series of exercises designed for Air Mobility Command to validate the C-17s ability to conduct wet-wing refueling in the North American theater in support of Agile Combat Employment (ACE) missions. The C-17 would supplement the C-130 refueling capability, which is predominantly used during ACE.

SFO is used when on-site ground crews transfer fuel from a Mobility aircraft to either another expeditionary fuel bladder, fuel truck or directly to a fighter aircraft.  Wet-wing refueling is often used for contingency operations. A refueling aircraft can land in an austere environment, offload fuel using the aircraft pumps and take off with minimal time on the ground.

For this exercise, a McChord C-17 airlifted an R-11 refueling truck to Thule.  The aircraft fuel from the C-17 wing was off loaded to the truck, which then repositioned to two F-16 aircraft to conduct fueling operations.

“This exercise was the first step in establishing AMC’s C-17 SFO capability in our theater,” said Chuck Keasey, CONR-1AF (AFNORTH) Aircraft Maintenance Branch Chief. “The exercise went very well and provided an excellent opportunity for our Airmen to work in a deployed location to refine ACE processes for maturing the C-17 capability for future wet-wing refueling missions. Mobility aircraft play a vital role in ACE, enabling allied Air Forces to project air power. Our proven ability to conduct wet-wing refueling enhances our capability to defend North American.” 

Exercise Amalgam Dart runs from June 10-19, with operations ranging across the Arctic from the Beaufort Sea to Thule, Greenland. Amalgam Dart 21-01 provides NORAD the opportunity to hone continental defense skills as Canadian and U.S. forces operate together in the Arctic.

“This event clearly demonstrates the strength of the U.S.-Canada Alliance as partners in NORAD and NATO, as well the as the skill, competence, agility, and dedication of both our country’s military," said Col. Christopher Dinote, director of CONR-1AF (AFNORTH) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate, who also commanded the 41st Air Expeditionary Group staff during the exercise.

A bi-national Canadian and American command, NORAD employs a network of space-based aerial and ground-based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers, and fighter aircraft, controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to deter, deny and defeat aerospace threats that originate outside or within our borders.