A SAC Boeing C-17A Globemaster III approaches the refueling boom of a McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 Extender of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). Photo: RNLAF.
The HAW, operating three C-17As out of Pápa Air Base, Hungary, executes airlift missions requested by the 12 member nations of the SAC. In order to be able to carry out long-range missions all around the world, HAW aircraft commanders have to practice air-to-air refueling regularly. As the HAW does not operate any tankers of its own, air-to-air refueling training is facilitated through several bilateral agreements established by the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO).
"As the acquisition and sustainment authority of the SAC C-17A weapon system, the NAM PO manages the agreements which provide the HAW aircrews with access to air-to-air refueling training", explains Mr. Bart Hummel, the NAM PO Branch Chief for Logistics and Mission Support.
A SAC Boeing C-17A Globemaster III approaches a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker of the 151st Air Refueling Wing (151 ARW), Utah Air National Guard. Like other ANG tanker units, the 151 ARW practices with the HAW while deployed to Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany. Photo: Nándor Emil Dudás.
HAW aircrews receive their C-17A simulator training at the Boeing Defence UK facility in Farnborough, the United Kingdom. In order to provide the pilots an opportunity to train refueling in the air, the HAW cooperates closely with the United States Air Force (USAF), the United States Air National Guard (ANG) and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). Cooperation is mutually beneficial; HAW pilots receive the necessary training to sustain their air-to-air refueling qualifications, while the USAF, ANG and RNLAF tanker crews get the opportunity to train with a C-17A.
At the moment, the HAW trains air-to-air refueling with tankers from the 100th Air Refueling Wing (100 ARW), USAF, based at RAF Mildenhall, the United Kingdom; the 334 Transport Squadron (334 Sqn), RNLAF, based at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands; and different ANG air refueling wings stationed on a rotational basis at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany. While the 100 ARW and the ANG units fly the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, the 334 Sqn operates the McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 Extender. Thus, HAW pilots get valuable experience from training with two different tanker airframes.
Lt Col Peer Geelen (RNLAF), the Director of Operations of the HAW Heavy Airlift Squadron (HAS), points out that training cooperation with the ANG units, the 100 ARW, and the 334 Sqn is an efficient solution to providing the 12 member nations of the SAC with access to C-17As capable of air-to-air refueling. "The SAC nations are our customers, therefore, we have to be able to meet their requirements. Close cooperation with the USAF, the ANG and the RNLAF helps us to maintain air-to-air refueling capability as cost-effectively as possible", Lt Col Geelen emphasizes.
The refueling boom of a KC-135 of the 100th Air Refueling Wing (100 ARW), United States Air Force, and a SAC C-17A. Photo: USAF / SrA Tabitha M. Lee.
A SAC C-17A approaches a KC-135 of the 151st Air Refueling Wing (151 ARW), Utah Air National Guard. Like other ANG tanker units, the 151 ARW practices with the HAW while deployed to Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany. Photo: Nándor Emil Dudás.
A KC-135 of the 151st Air Refueling Wing, Utah Air National Guard, pictured from the cockpit of a SAC C-17A. Photo: Nándor Emil Dudás.
About the Strategic Airlift Capability
Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), established in 2008, is a multinational program that provides its 12 member nations with assured access to military airlift capability by owning and operating three Boeing C-17 Globemaster III long-range cargo aircraft.
SAC is based at the Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF) Pápa Air Base, Hungary.
The SAC Nations are the NATO members Hungary (program host nation), Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States and NATO Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden. Each participating nation owns a share of the available flight hours of the SAC C-17s to serve the needs of their national defence, NATO, EU or UN commitments and humanitarian relief efforts.
SAC consists of the 12-nation Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) and the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO). The HAW is the operational unit and the NAM PO, an integral part of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), is the acquisition and sustainment authority of the SAC C-17 weapon system.
NAM PO contracts Boeing via a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement to provide technical support for the SAC C-17 aircraft.