The ash spewing from the Icelandic volcano that has disrupted international air travel also prompted Air Mobility Command’s 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill., to shift aircraft, aircrews, and maintenance personnel from northern European bases, like Ramstein Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, further south to locations in Spain. AMC also sent aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport teams to forward locations in Southwest Asia. Tankers at RAF Mildenhall, UK, were grounded April 15 so could not conduct refueling missions planned to support NATO exercises over Germany. The 315th Air Refueling Squadron managed to refuel four Spang F-16s before returning to England. Associated Press and Reuters reported Monday that NATO officials said at least one of several fighters that flew through the ash suffered engine damage. (AP report; Reuters report) (618th TACC April 16 report by Capt. Justin Brockhoff; 100th Air Refueling Wing April 15 report by TSgt. Kevin Wallace)
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.