Naval Air: April 19, 2003

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When Turkey decided not to allow America to use their bases for operations in Iraq, one of the victims was U.S. naval aviation. The tankers that naval aircraft flying off carriers in the eastern Mediterranean would use would have been based in Turkey. So those tankers were forced to operate from Bulgaria and Egypt. This meant that the tankers had to fly farther and burn more of the fuel that would otherwise be transferred to warplanes. Actually, it was worse, because the navy planned to fly it's own KC-130 tankers from Turkey. These had to be moved to a Persian Gulf base, where they also had to fly farther than previously. 

Another unanticipated problem was that many of the younger navy pilots had little experience with aerial refueling (which is used far more frequently in the air force). So for the first few days of the war, refueling went a little slower with these inexperienced naval pilots. Finally, the navy got burned once more by the relatively short range of the F-18 (their most numerous warplane). This shortcoming has been long noted, and the air force feels put upon when they are call upon to provide more aerial refueling capacity for the "short legged" F-18s. The air force is also trying to do more with its aging force of 1950s era KC-135 tankers. All of the overseas assignments are keeping a lot of KC-135 crews overseas six months or more a year. On the bright side, a major source of these overseas deployments, the Iraqi "no-fly" zones, is no more. 

 


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