Grissom joins 100 years of aerial refueling celebration

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  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Airmen at Grissom are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first aerial refueling flight by joining other units in a celebratory flight with flyovers at locations across the state, and around the world.

On June 27, 2023, a Grissom KC-135R Stratotanker will launch from Fort Wayne to begin a pre-designated route. The public may see the aircraft flying over at the following locations and times:

12:19 p.m. - Notre Dame campus

12:27 p.m. - Indiana Dunes State Park

12:47 p.m. - Purdue campus

1:02 p.m. - Downtown Terre Haute

1:13 p.m. - Indiana University campus

1:15 p.m. - Lake Monroe

1:34 p.m. - Downtown Evansville

1:50 p.m. - Downtown Clarksville, KY

2:29 p.m. - Florence, KY

2:46 p.m. - Shelbyville Army National Guard Station

2:51 p.m. - Indianapolis Motor Speedway

3:04 p.m. - Downtown Kokomo

3:07 - Grissom ARB

With 100 years of experience, today’s U.S. Air Force aerial refueling capabilities deliver unrivaled rapid global reach for U.S. forces and our Allies and partners through the mobility air forces fleet of KC-46, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers. Aerial refueling serves as a force multiplier, increasing the speed, range, lethality, flexibility and versatility of combat aircraft. Tankers also carry cargo and passengers, perform aeromedical evacuations, and enable strategic deterrence for the United States.

“Air refueling propels our Nation’s air power across the skies, unleashing its full potential,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “It connects our strategic vision with operational reality, ensuring we can reach any corner of the globe with unwavering speed and precision. Air refueling embodies our resolve to defend freedom and project power, leaving an indelible mark on aviation history.”

Innovation and tenacity, hallmark characteristics of Airmen throughout the service’s history, delivered the game-changing capability, once deemed impossible.

In the continued pursuit of advanced capabilities and increased endurance, U.S. Army Air Service aviators pulled off the impossible on June 27, 1923. On that day, 1st Lt. Virgil Hine and 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert, flying a DH-4B, passed gasoline through a hose to another DH-4B flying beneath it carrying Capt. Lowell H. Smith and 1st Lt. John P. Richter, accomplishing the first aerial refueling.

One hundred years later, the United States Air Force celebrates these Airmen’s tenacity and innovative will that is still thriving in Airmen’s spirits today. 

This critical capability is essential for the Department of Defense’s most vital missions. To remain relevant in the current and future security environments, the Air Force is in the process of recapitalizing its tanker fleet with the ongoing acquisition of the KC-46A and accelerating its pursuit of the next-generation air refueling system (NGAS), announced in March – propelling forward the capability developed and entrusted to Airmen a century ago.

“As we embark on the next 100 years of air refueling, we will continue to strengthen our air mobility excellence,” said Minihan. “We must leverage the remarkable capabilities of air refueling to preserve peace, protect freedom, and bring hope to the world. As Mobility Airmen, we write the next chapter of air refueling.”

Air Mobility Command salutes the visionaries who challenged the status quo of yesteryears while we inspire the next generation of dreamers and out-of-the box thinkers for the challenges ahead.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker wing in Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.