by Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/27/2013 - Keflavik International Airport, Iceland --
The 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and the KC-135
Stratotanker deployed from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, make up
an important part of the 48th Air Expeditionary Group here in Iceland.
The 48th AEG has been conducting air surveillance and policing missions
as a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization here in Iceland
since Oct. 28, 2013, in support of the U.S.-Iceland bilateral Defense
Agreement of 1951.
In order to conduct air surveillance and policing, the group's F-15C
Eagles, KC-135 Stratotanker and C-130J Hercules are on a 24/7 alert
The KC-135 has been in the Air Force's inventory for more than 50 years
and is a key element in ensuring that the U.S. and its allies complete
their mission without losing valuable time by having to land to refuel.
"For this mission and protecting the air space, fighters may not know
how long they will need to be airborne," said Maj. Wiley Semrau, 351st
EARS commander. "Without us being here they might have to come back down
and land after only being on station for a few hours, but with us here
they can extend that time."
According to Semrau, the KC-135 can help the F-15Cs, deployed from RAF
Lakenheath, England, stay airborne for an extended period of time.
"Force extension is the big capability we bring to the mission," said
Capt. Erika Palmer, 351st EARS pilot. "We give the fighters the
capability to extend their range, track targets longer and complete
Not only do the tankers do their job of air refueling, they also assist
the fighters in performing practice aerial interceptions.
"They have been able to practice a lot of intercepts on us. We fly out
to the airspace and then they will follow, find us and intercept," said
Aircrews agree that they work more closely together than they do back at their home stations.
"We are working very closely with the fighters so it's nice having the
operations desk right beside us and we're here to tell them how we can
support them and how we can help them out," said Semrau.
Palmer shared similar thoughts.
"Being here in Iceland and working so close together helps us expand our
understanding of the mission and what's going on while also getting to
play in the fight a little bit more than we normally would," said
Without the efforts of the 351st EARS pilots and boom operators, the
fighter jet capabilities would not be as strong. They allow the fighters
to arrive to Iceland, practice intercepts, conduct surveillance
missions and get home safely. The tanker "drags" the fighters to
locations such as Iceland, then enables them to practice intercepts and
air-to-air fights, conduct the NATO surveillance mission and return home
safely with plenty of divert options during questionable weather.
"It is very important for us to be here during this mission to help
assist the F-15s," said Semrau. "Without us being here, the capability
of how far out the fighters can fly or how long they can stay in the air
would be greatly decreased if they didn't have a tanker to give them
the fuel they needed to get back, divert or practice interceptions."