On a beautiful fall day in Topeka, the 190th Air Refueling Wing — a part of the Kansas Air National Guard — prepares for a training mission over the Kansas skies. These missions are a critical part of the 190th’s daily work. As we fly over Southwestern and Central Kansas, we make our rendez-vous with three B2 stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are to practice receiving mid-air refueling as much as the 190th practices delivering that fuel to these planes.
I was invited along to see the process on this flight. As I got into position in the boom pod, they showed me how they maneuver the boom with controls at the back window of the plane.
Then the Stealth bombers got into position and the refueling process began. You might wonder as I did: Why the need to refuel mid-air over the U.S. when there are plenty of safe places to land? The answer is simple. Practice these steps here over and over to make sure they can do it flawlessly and if and when it has to be done over hostile areas, the mission isn’t compromised by a lack of skill in performing the task.
The boom is lowered, connection is made and the mission is a success. not only does the Kansas Air National Guard serve the needs of refueling, they aid in both state and federal missions. In fact, 30% of the work of the entire Air Force is done by Air National Guard operations across the country…and for a fraction of the cost. That 30% of the work only accounts for 7% of the Air Force budget.
Not only that, but the 190th brings in an estimated $71 million in economic impact to the Topeka/Shawnee County area.
–KSNT Storm Track Chief Meteorologist Matt Miller