Editor’s Note: We like to capitalize on every opportunity to extol the virtues of our mobility folks. It is absolutely the truth when they say “No one kicks ass without tanker gas…no one!” This is the perfect example of how combat airpower works in unison with support assets, where the tanker crew made the call to make sure the Viper Driver and his jet didn’t need to part company at all, let alone over Indian Country. What an awesome story!

A McConnell KC-135 Stratotanker crew saved an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot from ejecting over [Daesh]-held territory in 2015, which could have resulted in the Airman’s captivity or death.

While deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the crew responded to an F-16 fuel emergency and escorted the aircraft from [Daesh] territory to allied airspace.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot.

Photo courtesy of USAF.
Photo courtesy of USAF.

“The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the F-16 disconnected a second time, the pilot went through his checklists and told the crew he had a fuel system emergency. Over 80 percent of his total fuel capability was trapped and unusable.

The F-16 could only use up to 15 minutes of fuel at a time, so the crew escorted the aircraft to its base while refueling every 15 minutes to avoid an emergency.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”


The original story can be viewed here.

(Featured photo by Master Sgt. Mark A. Moore/Released)