KC-135 Stratotankers Damaged as Tropical Storm Maria Hits Guam

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 14, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 14, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

U.S. Air Force refueling tankers in the Pacific sustained damage this week during Tropical Storm Maria, Military.com has learned.

The storm affected Air Mobility Command tankers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, officials confirmed Friday.

Maria rolled over Guam Wednesday and Thursday before being upgraded to a typhoon on Friday.

"Maintenance is underway for the AMC aircraft impacted," spokesman Maj. Bryon McGarry said in an email.

"Parts are available, and it is anticipated the impacted jets will return to the fleet in the near future,” he said, adding that it was KC-135 Stratotankers that were affected. “While we won't go into operational details, existing aircraft continue to ensure mission needs are met."

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"Missions are continuing today," added Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Megan Schafer, adding that PACAF officials are still assessing the damage to the aircraft.

Neither official said how many aircraft were affected.

Maria turned into a typhoon early Friday morning, with maximum wind gusts of 124 miles per hour, according to the Central Weather Bureau, a meteorological government agency in China.

KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft have a rotating deployment to the base to assist in Pacific Command's continuous bomber presence (CBP) mission, which promotes regional stability. The B-52 Stratofortress assumed the mission in April.

Most recently, New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135Rs were tasked with the assignment as part of the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

Guam "is a harsh environment, bringing unique challenges," Lt. Col. Nelson Perron, 506th commander, told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview. The publication visited the base last month.

"Now we're flying more missions, and more of a variety of missions," Perron told the magazine, adding that challenges include the abundance of tasks along with the variety of missions they support -- some more dynamic than others.

The six KC-135s at the base are from Guard, Reserve and active-duty tanker units, Air Force Magazine said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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