KC-135 tankers were a fixture in Meridian until base realignment a few years ago. But now the refueling aircraft are starting to return. The first arrived Monday,
It seems appropriate for a refueling mission to be here.
This is the place where Al and Fred key demonstrated the technology that made air-to-air refueling practical and safe and mechanic A.D. Hunter invented a spill-free fueling nozzle that's in place today, with some modifications.
"The KC-135 is going to be in the inventory for many, many more years," said Col. Franklin Chalk, commander of the 186th ARW. "And basically the base was designed as an air refueling wing base. And we're glad to get back into that mission."
Long missions of today make refueling in the air a vital part of the nation's defense and missions around the globe.
Meridian will get five aircraft from Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio, which is downsizing, and actually didn't expect to see this tanker until next month.
"We certainly welcome the aircraft back and we certainly are thankful for the 121st for being willing to let us obtain that early.," said Chalk. "You know, to give us that opportunity to get ahead of the game as we train and prepare for our new mission."
Meridian's 186th lost the refueling mission a couple of years ago. Some air guardsmen are familiar with the aircraft, but all will have to be qualified or re-qualified to service the KC-135. The demand for this aircraft takes it to locations around the world.
"It'll be a new mission for a lot of the young guys we've got in the unit now," said production superintendent SMSgt. Tim Dean. "They get the opportunity to see the world, you know, travel a lot of great places. I mean, a lot of people from Mississippi, a lot of the young guys never had an opportunity to be in Hawaii or Washington, D.C., or just anywhere in the world at any given time, the opportunity is there to go see the world."
The full complement of eight aircraft is supposed to be delivered to Key Field between now and the end of September.