USAF Special Operations Air Refueling (SOAR)

AWP

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A pretty neat article about a little known capability. Reading it I thought there's no way a package could include these guys at low level and "low level" could be relative to the normal tanker mission. Then I thought about B-52 mission profiles, so...I can see the possibility, but would have to think of this as the tanker(s) hit up by the package before it entered into bad guy land.

Interesting all the same. Can't wait to vet our aircrew asking for a green tag because they are a boom operator....

The Dark World Of USAF Special Ops Air Refuelers And Their Modified KC-135RT Tankers
 

Gunz

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Just how "low-level" are you gonna fly a Stratotanker filled with avgas? I don't care who's at the wheel, terrain-hugging is not an option...so there has to be some sacrifice for altitude. I mean, it's a big plane.

The only thing I ever "flew" in the ANG was a forklift...but this sounds more like a "support" role, even if they do it with NVGs.
 

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Just how "low-level" are you gonna fly a Stratotanker filled with avgas? I don't care who's at the wheel, terrain-hugging is not an option...so there has to be some sacrifice for altitude. I mean, it's a big plane.

B-52's do some version of it, skip forward to about 6:30.


They used to run "Oil Burner" routes into the grand canyon before the Navajo asked the AF to stop. A -52's gross weight is bout a 100k more than a -135. I'd imagine "low level" is relative, but some a/c have crashed training for the mission.

Accident Boeing B-52G-80-BW Stratofortress 57-6479, 16 Oct 1984

You figure air search radar effectiveness decreases with range and altitude, so you can go in a lot closer at even 2k than you can at say 25-30k.
 

Gunz

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I was near the top of a mountain one winter day in Banner Elk NC when a B52 came skimming over the crest and damn near knocked me off my skis. I exaggerate but only slightly. A jaw-dropping Air Force-boner moment.

I was not air crew but got a ride on a Herky doing one of our LAPES drops at Pope...and I have no desire to ever again be in a plane flying that close to the ground that isn't intending to take off or land.

I suppose if deep penetration is required by helicopters or Ospreys, the KC130s would refuel them below radar--after themselves being topped off by the special ops stratotankers. Pretty cool stuff...and dangerous work at night.
 

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When the FLARNG ADA unit was qualifying/ certifying, they had B-52's make runs at 200'. One flew over 301 while I was driving home and it scared the hell out of me.
 

SpitfireV

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Just how "low-level" are you gonna fly a Stratotanker filled with avgas? I don't care who's at the wheel, terrain-hugging is not an option...so there has to be some sacrifice for altitude. I mean, it's a big plane.

The only thing I ever "flew" in the ANG was a forklift...but this sounds more like a "support" role, even if they do it with NVGs.

I think they mentioned in the article it was "single thousands."
 

medicchick

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Just how "low-level" are you gonna fly a Stratotanker filled with avgas? I don't care who's at the wheel, terrain-hugging is not an option...so there has to be some sacrifice for altitude. I mean, it's a big plane.

The only thing I ever "flew" in the ANG was a forklift...but this sounds more like a "support" role, even if they do it with NVGs.
As someone who used to refuel these fuckers, avgas is NOT the same as JP-8/JetA. Think gas vs diesel.

Best way to ruin a day is 2 surprise KC-135's with pax numbering over 200 total...
 

BloodStripe

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I've been noticing the Air Force likes to throw the term Special Operations around pretty loosely. Special Operations Branch This, Special Operations Branch That. Once everyone in the Air Force gets their participation trophy, as if their chow halls weren't enough, maybe then they'll stop?
 

Gunz

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Everybody wants to be relevant. If you're not involved in (or in support of) SF/SOF units these days, maybe you feel left behind. Big Air Force and Big Navy have lots of expensive, conventional assets that may be lacking relevance, at least at present.

Who doesn't want to be "special"? 🤓
 
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