It’s less than a month until the first air show at McConnell Air Force Base in six years, and the military has released a video of Thunderbirds refueling from Wichita-based tankers.
The video shows a Thunderbird position behind the tanker in a cloud-filled sky. It then moves closer and closer to the tanker until the F-16 is in position to refuel. After refueling, the Thunderbirds fly in a six-ship delta formation behind the tanker.
The KC-135 Stratotanker uses a shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to a flying boom to refuel aircraft, according to the Air Force’s website.
“We can’t wait to come back to the Air Capital of the World and the home of air refueling,” the video’s narrator says.
The Frontiers in Flight air show Sept. 8-9 will be the first at McConnell since 2012. The base has undergone $267 million in construction to prepare for the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker. Boeing will deliver the first of 36 new tankers in October to replace the fleet of aging KC-135s.
“McConnell performs more than 95 percent of the Thunderbirds air refuelings,” said Brad Beyer, 22nd Operations Support Squadron Long Range Scheduling and Air Space manager, in a February Air Force article. “Because we are centrally located it makes sense for us to perform them.”
The Thunderbirds will be the featured performance at the McConnell show, but other groups are scheduled to perform, including the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.
“When we fight, we rely on tankers to expand our operational reach so we can fly farther and fight longer,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbirds team leader and commander, in the Air Force article. “Similarly, when we transit to a show, we rely on the same air refueling teams to extend our reach so we can devote more time to recruiting, retaining and inspiring our audiences. It’s a team effort and we appreciate their support.”