by Senior Airman Kate Thornton
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
7/17/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The
Hungarian air force hosted U.S. and Swedish air force personnel between
June 21 and 30, 2015, at Kecskemét air base, Hungary, to learn
air-to-air refueling for the first time.
Following a recent tasking to perform close air support for global
operations, the Hungarian air force made this new capability a priority.
The NATO allies and partners met for a two-week familiarization period
enabling the Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen pilots to perform air-to-air
refueling in a safe and controlled environment before applying the new
skill in combat.
"To get the right mission strength, we need to have air-to-air
refueling, that's why we turned to the U.S. to get some AAR capability
and initial training," said Hungarian air force Brig. Gen. Csebe Ugrik,
Kecskemét AB commander.
As the only permanent U.S. Air Force air refueling wing in the European
theater, the aircrew and tanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing
at RAF Mildenhall, England, was the go-to unit to provide practical
training after the classroom portion.
"Now we could finally start this training and get this very important
force multiplier capability for the Hungarian Gripen fleet," said
Hungarian air force Lt. Col. Tamas Szvath, Hungarian AF fixed wing
Although the Gripen aircraft has the ability to air refuel, the Hungarian pilots needed training.
Three instructor pilots from the Swedish air force Gripen Operational
Testing and Evaluation unit were responsible for the training syllabus,
basic training and the Hungarian instructor pilot training.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Benjamin Kline and Tech. Sgt. Daniel Maas, 351st Air
Refueling Squadron instructor pilot and boom operator, instructed the
Hungarian students using the KC-135 Stratotanker as the training
platform, which gave them an idea of what to expect when communicating
and air refueling with the U.S. tanker.
After three days of academics taught by representatives from the two
guest air forces involved, the pilots took flight for hands-on
"In the beginning of the training we're trying not to focus on [a quota
of successful contacts]," Swedish air force Capt. Fredrik Borgström,
Gripen instructor pilot said. "We want to make sure the performance is
safe, corrections are made after feedback and they continue to improve.
Then in the end we want them to handle those corrections by themselves
and analyze their own behavior."
Along with learning air refueling, the Hungarians needed instructor
pilots to maintain the new skills. The Swedish instructor pilots trained
two individuals after they had completed their basic air refueling
"You have to start somewhere," Borgström said. "It is not ideal to
become an instructor when you've just recently done your basic training,
but we show them the tool box so they have a way to move forward with
The tanker and Gripen aircrew flew approximately six hours daily for six
days to ensure the pilots understood their new capability. The training
event also developed better interoperability between the air forces.
"Our job is to sustain and project air power," Kline said, "We're here
to enable the Hungarians with this new military skill set."
After days of performing only dry contacts with the tanker, the pilots
were confident enough and took fuel for the first time, proving they
were ready to perform air refueling safely and correctly.
"For the future of the Gripen fleet, it means we have a capability the
Hungarian air force has never had before," Szvath said. "Our partners
who provided this help to us have written their names in the history of
Hungarian military aviation."