A tanker crew saved an F-16 pilot from ejecting over ISIS-held territory during a recent strike sortie, officials revealed. The 384th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 crew deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, from McConnell AFB, Kan., broke-off refue?ling a pair of A-10s to respond to the inflight emergency last year. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds,” 384th ARS pilot Capt. Nathanial Beer said in a release, Feb. 9. The F-16 pilot attempted to troubleshoot the problem after a second refueling attempt failed. He deduced that roughly 80 percent the fighter’s onboard fuel was trapped in the wing and external tanks and couldn’t be transferred to the F-16’s reservoir tanks and onward to the engine. The fighter could only take on 15 minutes of usable fuel at a time, so the KC-135 crew escorted the crippled jet, refueling at several minute intervals all the way to a safe landing back in friendly territory. Beer, fellow pilot Maj. Robert Bradley, and boom operator SrA. Jonathan Nigl knew “the risks to their own safety, [and] they put the life of the F-16 pilot first,” 384th ARS commander Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg said. “What motivates them is a higher calling to be the best at the mission and take care of their fellow soldiers, sailors and airmen,” he added.
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.