KC-135 Damaged in Tropical Storm Won't Fly until October, Air Force Says

Airmen with 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, perform a routine inspection on a KC-135 Stratotanker at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, on Aug. 8, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Munnaf Joarder)
Airmen with 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, perform a routine inspection on a KC-135 Stratotanker at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, on Aug. 8, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Munnaf Joarder)

A KC-135 Stratotanker damaged by Tropical Storm Maria in the Pacific last month will be out of commission until at least October, officials told Military.com.

The storm, which rolled over Guam on July 4 and 5 before being upgraded to a typhoon later that week, affected Air Mobility Command tankers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

"One aircraft sustained 20 feet of damage to its right outward wing leading edge, which required a specialized heavy maintenance team to repair," AMC spokesman Maj. Bryon McGarry told Military.com Aug. 24 in a statement. "The affected aircraft is anticipated to return to duty in October."

Photos surfaced last month on the popular but unaffiliated Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco of tankers sprawled out across the runways after the storm hit.

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"The majority of the damage was to aircraft air refueling boom bathtub hinges, which were removed and replaced on-site," he said.

All but the singular aircraft were repaired and returned "to full operational status within 24-48 hours," McGarry said.

The spokesman would not said how many aircraft were originally affected for operational security reasons.

The storm's impact and the subsequent repairs did not affect any planned flights or operations, McGarry said.

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.

More recently, New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135Rs were tasked with the assignment as part of the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, according to a report from Air Force Magazine.

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 in June.

Aircraft also included KC-135s from the Nebraska Air National Guard; Alabama Air National Guard; active-duty aircraft from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; and Reserve aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, the magazine said.

"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.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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