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380AEW Article

KC-10 support USS Nimitz (CVN 68)

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Preston Webb
  • 380th AEW

As part of Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve 908th EARS-assigned KC-10s routinely refuel coalition and sister service aircraft, including F/A-18C Super Hornets from the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the skies over Iraq and Syria.


The 908 EARS, part of the 380 Air Expeditionary Wing, is hosted at Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE, and traces its roots back more than 100 years to the 18th Aero Squadron founded June 16, 1917. The 908 EARS has shared a partnership with the USS Nimitz, the oldest U.S. Carrier Battle Group in active-service and currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


 “We are just one of the many parts that go into projecting airpower across the CENTCOM AOR. The 24/7 air refueling capability we provide, enables coalition combat aircraft to prosecute targets and conduct missions that would otherwise be impossible,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alex, 908 EARS commander. “Our relationship with the Nimitz has been especially effective because we were able to create a dialogue so we could better understand their needs as receivers.  This cooperation enabled us to get [CVN 68] aircraft to their working areas with more fuel leading to longer loiter times ultimately providing better protection for our coalition troops and airborne assets.


With its homeport at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, the CVN 68 routinely operates in international waters, to maintain a presence in theaters where building a physical base would cause political strain.


The increased mobility requires CVN 68 aircraft to refuel mid-air, so they trust and work with coalition partners, like the 908 EARS, to extend the reach of their mission.


Refueling four to five times per mission, F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots with the strike group are able to conduct maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.


“We’re one of only a few Marine squadrons that get to fly this mission,” said U.S. Marine Corps Captain, Matt, F/A-18C pilot assigned to CVN 68. “The mission out here is definitely very complicated, but it’s an awesome feeling being able to fly out here.”


Without the unmatched versatility 908 EARS’ Airmen and the KC-10 Extender provide CJTF-OIR, Matt said this mission wouldn’t be possible.


“I have nothing but respect for the Air Force,” Matt said. “I’ve seen some crazy flying by refueling pilots so [fighters] wouldn’t have to do anything unnatural.”


In addition to carrying an average fuel load of 250,000 and 350,000 pounds, the KC-10 is also capable of carrying cargo and personnel.


Since April, 908 EARS crews have dedicated nearly 20,000 flight hours, offloading 200 million pounds of fuel to nearly 17,000 coalition and sister service aircraft enabling joint strikes against ISIS.


“We probably wouldn’t make it off the ship without the Air Force,” Matt said. “Without refueling, we could barely make it to Kuwait before we have to turn around, so we really depend on refuellers to make [the mission] happen.”