USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group began their fourth month of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) support Jan. 12, teaming up with U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker and the KC-10 Extender tankers to extend their mission endurance to more than 1,000 miles.
Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 has been supporting OEF since October 2010 and has been conducting aerial refueling with the Air Force's KC-135s the KC-10s since the beginning.
CVW 2 planes can remain in the air for more than five hours during each sortie, traveling distances of approximately 1,200 miles round-trip on each mission.
The ability to refuel in flight eliminates the need to find a place to refuel on land and extends the time the pilots and the aircraft can remain on station and support the troops on the ground.
Lt. Charles Schellhorn, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2, has been flying F/A-18F Super Hornets for nearly two years and has been refueling with the KC-135s and KC-10s for about six months.
"We are normally airborne for six hours on OEF missions, requiring us to refuel every 90 minutes," said Schellhorn. "Air Force tankers help us stay on station as long as possible so we can support the troops on the ground for a longer and more continuous period of time. The ability to refuel while airborne makes us a more effective fighting force."
The KC-135 has excelled in aerial refueling for more than 50 years, providing aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft. The KC-135 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
KC-135s can hold approximately 200,000 pounds of fuel and the KC-10s hold 356,000 pounds of fuel, both can transfer fuel at a rate of approximately 1000 gallons per minute.
The KC-135 fleet has a single boom, but there are modified KC-135s with refueling pods located on the wings. These pods house a long hose with a basket on the end that when unwound allows for the unique capability to refuel one aircraft per wing simultaneously. The KC-10s also have a single boom but have the additional capability to use a 40-foot hose with a basket on every jet.
"Aerial refueling is critical, and efficient to our small part in the Navy's mission," said Schellhorn. "Not only is the support from the KC-135s and KC-10s important for us to stay overhead for long periods of time, but it also provides the troops on land the maximum amount of coverage, in the form of security and protection."
The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
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