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NATO allies find unity in difference at Mildenhall tanker symposium

A panel of airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing and NATO partners answers questions regarding the 2018 European Tanker Symposium at RAF Mildenhall, England, Thursday, May 17, 2018. An annual event where NATO allies and partner nations with an interest in air refueling capabilities gather to discuss tanker formation flights.

WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 17, 2018

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Since Monday, airmen of the 100th Air Refueling Wing have been sharing best practices and lessons learned with NATO allies while hosting the European Tanker Symposium for military counterparts from 10 countries.

The fifth edition of the annual event, which ends Friday, is the largest gathering of participants yet for the tanker symposium. It included airmen from the United States, the U.K., France, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Romania, Spain, Poland and Germany.

“The big purpose here is how do we standardize our procedures for mixed formation for aircraft so we can enhance in-flight refueling with our NATO partners,” said 100th ARW vice commander Col. David Lenderman.

A mixed formation is when aircraft of varying types fly together, as when a fighter jet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

What may be a simple exercise for one air force becomes more complicated when jets from several NATO allies are involved.

“With our partner nations having different aircraft, it’s a little bit different,” said Lt. Col. Tim Mach, deputy group commander of the 100th Operations Group. “Our mixed formation now is having different countries flying with the same set of rules, standards, techniques and procedures.”

British Flt. Lt. Elizabeth Herbert said many procedures remain unchanged.

“That’s the whole point of it really. If we can maintain these techniques, then it doesn’t matter what aircraft we may have in the future,” she said.

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A Royal Air Force A330 Voyager takes off from RAF Mildenhall, England, to fly with U.S. military aircraft as part of the 2018 European Tanker Symposium hosted by the 100th Air Refueling Wing, Thursday, May 17, 2018.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

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