128 ARW created refueling route saves time and taxpayers’ money

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Morgan R. Lipinski
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyson Krug flips several switches on the control panel, sets his chin on the chinrest and waits. At a steady altitude of 25,000 feet, a Canadian forest can be seen rushing past in a blur below. Although a mesmerizing sight, Krug continues to focus his attention solely on the horizon. After several moments, a KC-10 Extender glides into view and Krug begins to perform his duties as a KC-135R Stratotanker boom operator. Although this aerial refueling is similar to his previous missions, Krug was one of the first boom operators to refuel on this newly published track titled the AR-128 East and West Refueling Route.

The AR-128, a refueling route founded by the U.S. Air Force Airmen of the mission planning cell with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, was published in the "Canadian Forces Flight Supplement" handbook June 25, 2015.

The AR-128 is a refueling route, primarily in Canadian airspace, used as a meeting point where 128 ARW KC-135s can transfer fuel to U.S. military deploying aircraft.

The AR-128 was founded to aid deploying aircraft traveling from the West Coast to an overseas area of responsibility such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Previously, deploying aircraft from the West Coast were required to land on the East Coast for fuel before continuing the flight overseas. This resulted in an expensive delay due to aircraft runway and landing fees, as well as providing necessary accommodations for the deploying troops during the layover. However, conducting aerial refueling on the AR-128 cuts costs and travel time down exponentially.

"Although the aerial refuel between the two aircrafts on AR-128 takes less than 30 minutes to complete, it saves up to $50,000 per flight in tax dollars and shaves off numerous hours from the travel time," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Hunter, the commander of the 126th Air Refueling Squadron with the 128 ARW.

Aerial refueling missions on the AR-128 are tactically timed to meet deploying aircraft approximately halfway through travel so the aircraft can make a direct flight overseas.

"The 128th is strategically located almost directly in the center of the country and, as a result of that, we can meet deploying aircraft from the Coast with only traveling slightly out of our own state," said Hunter.

Beyond the benefit of cutting costs and travel time, the AR-128 also benefits the deploying troops.

"The troops that are on those deploying flights are going to be away from their families for 120 days or more," said Krug. "Because there is less time needed for travel, that gives the troops more time at home with their loved ones before they deploy. That means everything to them."

While preforming the AR-128 aerial refueling missions, 128 ARW Airmen also receive refresher training on flight coordination, fuel management and aerial refueling procedures, said Krug.

Since 2012, the route was a temporary mission that was being evaluated for its effectiveness, said Hunter. Nevertheless, on June 25, 2015, Canada published the AR-128 in the "Canadian Forces Flight Supplement" handbook. Because the route is primarily in Canadian airspace, its publication in this handbook was an essential step in furthering the route's progress. The AR-128 is set to be published in the "United States Forces Flight Supplement" handbook in the fall of 2015. From that point, the 128 ARW aspires to involve other nearby air refueling units in the AR-128 and eventually supply fuel to deploying aircraft from around the country.

With innovative thought and hard work, the 128 ARW Airmen created an aerial refueling route that saves travel time and taxpayers' money when deploying troops overseas.

"The AR-128 was formed by the raw brainpower of the 128th Airmen. We are working hard to optimize our location, skills, and knowledge to further the progress of both the United States military and its citizens," said Hunter.