The airmen at RAF Mildenhall, England, who maintain the 15 KC-135 tankers of the 100th Air Refueling Wing, say the on average 44-year-old aircraft break down much less frequently in the warm weather of summer. The personnel who manage those airmen agree but also credit the airmen who do “maintenance magic.” The unseasonably warm European summer has enabled the wing to hold a steady 84-percent mission capable rate—higher than the USAF standard—for the past five months. The tanker maintainers work 12-hour shifts and find innovative ways to keep the old birds flying. MSgt. J.R. Robertson, a maintenance superintendent, says, “Everyone talks about … how well [the KC-135] is holding up after all these years, but, in my opinion, it’s actually how well maintenance is holding up on the KC-135.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.