In the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Iraqi counteroffensive to liberate Mosul, no nation works alone. In the skies, pilots from 19 nations work tirelessly to dismantle, disrupt and ultimately destroy ISIL by striking infrastructure, roadways and other high-value targets.
Coalition forces have flown thousands of combat sorties using a range of strike aircraft, operating at the tip of the spear. Coalition support teams, both on the ground and in the air, ensure this group of strike pilots stays airborne. Tankers, such as the KC-10 Extender, are just one example of the support provided in the air.
“Our mission is a multinational effort,” said Capt. Mike, a KC-10 pilot deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. “(Our Airmen) are just one small part of it, but with all of the support elements like the aircrews, maintenance teams and everyone else on the ground, we bring the fight to (ISIL).”
U.S. Air Forces Central Command support units and aerial refueling crews like Mike's team work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure operations remain unhindered in the campaign to defeat ISIL.
Embodying a coalition approach to warfare, AFCENT aerial refueling teams train to refuel aircraft from all nations both home and around the globe. The KC-10 aircrews leverage the aircraft's unique ability to supply fuel using both the centerline refueling boom and drogue-and-hose system during the same mission, meaning they can supply a wide range of fighters, bombers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft without landing to switch systems.
This flexible approach allows a KC-10 crew to supply its 340,000-pound fuel payload to any coalition aircraft in the area, extending the range and time of air missions across their area of responsibility.
“We want to extend their range and enhance their capabilities, just like we would our own,” Mike said. “We could have American or coalition aircraft on our wing and everyone is going to get their gas because we're all contributing to the fight.”
Mike said the capability to increase missions from approximately an hour and a half to more than eight hours affects all aspects of the air campaign.
“Extending the range of aircraft means extending the support to the warfighters on the ground,” Mike said. “Our support teams make sure our forces provide support and over watch where needed without gaps from landing to refuel.”
As the fight to liberate Mosul and destroy ISIL continues, Mike said he and the support teams across the area of responsibility will continue to keep the fight flying.
“Being part of the coalition mission here in the Middle East for Mosul and the fight against ISIL is a humbling experience,” Mike said. “Our Airmen are the best trained and best equipped in the world so we will continue to use our expertise to bring the fight to the enemy every day.”