Support: August 29, 2002

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The first air attacks on Afghanistan in October, 2001 were not possible without five U.S. Air force air-to-air refueling aircraft. Each of the five KC-10s can carry a maximum of 175 tons of fuel, and the five KC-10s flew eight sorties the night of October 7th, refueling navy carrier aircraft that dropped most of the bombs the first week. In 44 hours, those tankers performed 186 refueling. The navy F-18s have notoriously skimpy fuel capacity, something the aircraft has long been criticized for. The war in Afghanistan required navy warplanes to fly long distances not seen since World War II. Without the air force tankers, the carrier strikes would have been less than half of what they were, because the navy just doesn't have that many aerial tankers. Because most U.S. aerial tankers belong to the air force, the navy and special operations command aircraft that refuel in the air have to argue with mainline air force units that want first dibs on tankers. It's a constant struggle and a major headache for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. No solution is in sight.

 


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