The US Air Force’s (USAF) two KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelling aircraft have successfully completed the 72-hour-long single-aircraft endurance missions.

The mission was undertaken between 4 and 7 October.

It was conducted by the 92nd Air Refuelling Wing (ARW) from Fairchild Air Force Base together with 141st ARW, 452nd Air Mobility Wing from March Air Reserve Base and 134th ARW from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee, US.

The units continuously operated the two aircraft with minimal time on ground.

The aircraft landed only to refuel, change crews and service engine oil, while keeping at least one engine running.

This mission demonstrated the multi-day tanker mission generation capabilities of the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

92nd Maintenance Group commander colonel Craig Giles said: “The execution of this endurance mission is a proof of concept to support Pacific Air Force’s planning efforts and the USAF’s focus on Persistent Mission Generation.

“Two aircraft performed a series of engine running crew changes and hot-pit refuels to minimise the amount of time aircraft are on the ground and maximise aircraft reliability by eliminating the need to cycle power, hydraulics and avionics.”

During the three-day endurance mission, the deployed crews interchanged continuously to operate the two KC-135 aircraft for refuelling four different types of USAF aircraft.

It included B-52 Stratofortresses, B-2 Spirit bombers, E-6B Mercury and E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.

The mission covered over 36,000 miles distance, showcasing the aircraft’s preparedness to undertake missions in the Indo-Pacific theatre.

Furthermore, this mission allowed deployed crews to implement various Agile Combat Employment capabilities, including hot-pit refuelling, reducing downtime and concurrent servicing.