Air Force airmen practice refueling aircraft in the air with a KC-135

BOX ELDER, S.D, (KOTA TV) - A B-1 needs to fly across the ocean and is running out of fuel, a KC-135 comes to the rescue.

Two KC-135 pilots converse in the cockpit.

Air Force airmen are at Ellsworth Air Force Base for Combat Raider practicing how to refuel B-1 aircraft with a KC-135.

The KC-135's are owned by the Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.

KC-135's can refuel B-1 Bombers, heavy aircraft like C-17's and fighter jets. The KC-135's help Navy, Marine and foreign assets too.

"So if they need to stay on a target or need to get somewhere that's further away then we can provide them fuel to enable them to stay on station for longer. Or across oceans. Things of that nature," Captain Zachary Scheider, a KC-135 pilot, said.

Three hours before the flight, pilots monitor the weather, review airfield maps and conduct maintenance checks on the KC-135.

The pilot tries to keep the aircraft stable to help out their right-hands, the boom operators. Boom operators look out of a small window in the back of the KC-135 and lowers the boom into an aircraft's receptacle to give it fuel.

Precision is crucial. It saves lives and the Air Force money.

"The receivers have a little bit of scratches on the nose, we try to avoid that. Also, we don't want to break windows. It can cause a lot of damage on either aircraft. Worst-case scenario we could have a mid-air collision," SSgt. Nicholas Hauck, with Boom Operations, said.

This summer's Combat Raider Exercise is helping airmen get acquainted with the new F- 35 fighter jets.

28th Operations Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Jonathan Slinkard said teamwork is key to these missions.

"Together each of us is better than anyone platform could be individually so to get those repetitions with other platforms is critical to the way we would employ in combat," Slinkard said.