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Celebrating 100 years of air refueling

KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 6th and 927th Air Refueling Wings taxi down the flight line during Operation Violent Storm at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 26, 2023. Violent Storm showcased that MacDill AFB Airmen can provide rapid global mobility at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster)

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The United States Air Force will be conducting flyovers across 50 states on June 27 to honor 100 years of aerial refueling excellence. More than 150 tankers from 26 Total Force installations are scheduled to participate with KC-135 Stratotankers, KC-10 Extenders, and KC-46 Pegasus aircraft.


Today’s U.S. Air Force air refueling capabilities deliver unrivaled rapid global reach for U.S. forces and our Allies and partners throughout the globe. Aerial refueling serves as a force multiplier, increasing the speed, range, lethality, flexibility and versatility of combat aircraft. Tankers also carry cargo and passengers, perform aeromedical evacuations, and enable strategic deterrence for the United States.


“Air refueling propels our Nation’s air power across the skies, unleashing its full potential,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “It connects our strategic vision with operational reality, ensuring we can reach any corner of the globe with unwavering speed and precision. Air refueling embodies our resolve to defend freedom and project power, leaving an indelible mark on aviation history.”


Innovation and tenacity, characteristics that fuel our Airmen today, were what drove aviators to deliver a game-changing capability 100 years ago.


In the continued pursuit of advanced capabilities and increased endurance, U.S. Army Air Service aviators pulled off the impossible on June 27, 1923. On that day, 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert, flying a DH-4B, passed gasoline through a gravity hose to another DH-4B piloted by Capt. Lowell H. Smith and 1st Lt. John P. Richter, accomplishing the first aerial refueling.


One hundred years later, the United States Air Force celebrates these Airmen, and looks to the next generation to bring diversity of thought, push boundaries and find solutions beyond the status quo.


This critical capability is essential for the Department of Defense’s most vital missions. To remain relevant in the current and future security environments, the Air Force is in the process of recapitalizing its tanker fleet. The ongoing acquisition of the KC-46A and accelerating the pursuit of the next-generation air refueling system (NGAS), announced in March, is propelling forward the capability developed and entrusted to Airmen a century ago.


“As we embark on the next 100 years of air refueling, we will continue to strengthen our air mobility excellence,” said Minihan. “We must leverage the remarkable capabilities of air refueling to preserve peace, protect freedom, and bring hope to the world. As Mobility Airmen, we write the next chapter of air refueling.”


Air Mobility Command salutes the visionaries who’ve done the impossible, while inspiring the next generation of dreamers and out-of-the box thinkers for the challenges ahead.


For additional information please reach out to Air Mobility Command Public Affairs at AMC.PA.ADO@us.af.mil or by phone at 618-229-8587.

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