RAF Mildenhall - February 25th 2024

25/02/2024

With the news that 2 KC-10s were on the ground at RAF Mildenhall and a rumoured third one to arrive, I made the nearly 400-mile round trip to Suffolk to catch them for what could be the last time, as they are currently due to be completely retired by the end of September this year. 

Saturday 24th February saw KC-10s 84-0191 and 86-0027 arrive at RAF Mildenhall as ROMA71/81 respectively, having dragged several F-16s from the USA back to Europe. The F-16s in question were from Aviano Air Base in Italy, however, they pit-stopped at the USAF in Europe's only other F-16 base, Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. Thankfully, the 3rd aircraft due that day never crossed, so, when it got airborne for Mildenhall the following day, there was no doubt in my mind that I should make the effort, despite the weather not being perfect and a thick patch of cloud blocking the sun when it did eventually land. It was my understanding that it would be refuelling more Aviano F-16s across from the States, this wasn't the case and the aircraft made the Atlantic crossing alone. 

It was a fantastic sight to see 3 Extenders back at Mildenhall, reminding me of days in the not-too-distant past when up to 8 were on the ground supporting refuelling missions over Eastern Europe in 2021/2022.

84-0191 and 86-0027 were scheduled for departure on Monday the 26th, when, with a pair of Mildenhall-based KC-135s, they would be tanking RAF Lakenheaths F-15s to the States as they start their deployment for multiple US-based exercises. 86-0031, the final of the three to arrive, departed on Thursday 29th March alongside a KC-135 and 6 F-15s. 

If this is the last time a KC-10 touches down on UK soil, I'm chuffed to have been able to document the occasion. I will certainly make an effort to catch any more that may visit. 

Multiple CV-22B Ospreys sat on the deck at Mildenhall following their grounding in December 2023. Hopefully, they make a safe return to the skies soon!


USAF Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey 08-0050 and 11-0061 - 7th Special Operations Squadron - 352nd Special Operations Wing - RAF Mildenhall 

It was nice to finally get a shot of the MC-130 line, having never previously taken such a photo. It would have been nice if there wasn't a pole in my shot, though!


USAF Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II 13-5776 - 67th Special Operations Squadron - 352nd Special Operations Wing - RAF Mildenhall

86-0027 is the aircraft that does not wear a tailband, this is because it was transferred to Travis Air Force Base, California, from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. McGuire had all of their KC-10s retired/transferred first as they made a swift transition onto the KC-46 Pegasus. Travis is also now taking delivery of the Pegasus aircraft.


USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 84-0191 and 86-0027

USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 84-0191 - 70th Air Refuelling Squadron - 60th Air Mobility Wing - Travis Air Force Base

USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 86-0027 - 70th Air Refuelling Squadron - 60th Air Mobility Wing - Travis Air Force Base

Despite the sun being a no-show, you can't say no to an opportunity to shoot a KC-10. 


USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 86-0031 ROMA61 - 70th Air Refuelling Squadron - 60th Air Mobility Wing - Travis Air Force Base

2 of Mildenhalls' KC-135s have received new nose art, this being one of them. The RAF Mildenhall website states that this nose art 'was installed to memorialize the 80th anniversary of the 8th Air Force for "Black Week" and honour the major losses from World War Two.' 'The nose art commemorates the first B-17 Flying Fortress of the 100th Bomb Group to fly 50 missions during WWII.


USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 59-1511 'Squawkin Hawk' - 351st Air Refuelling Squadron - 100th Air Refuelling Wing - RAF Mildenhall

USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 60-0335 'NKAWTG Big Gas Bird' - 351st Air Refuelling Squadron - 100th Air Refuelling Wing - RAF Mildenhall

This aircraft went on to support the F-15s trip to the USA the following day, you can even see a crew member hard at work making sure it's ready for the flight!


USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 60-0353 'Rosies Riveters' - 351st Air Refuelling Squadron - 100th Air Refuelling Wing - RAF Mildenhall