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A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee can be seen through the haze of Canadian wildfire smoke over the skies of Madison June 27. The low-altitude flight commemorated the 100th anniversary of air refueling. Submitted photo

The 128th Air Refueling Wing recently made its mark on aviation history by embarking on a region-wide tour and thrilling spectators across the state with breathtaking low passes at various destinations while participating in the momentous Centennial Contact event June 27.

This special occasion commemorated 100 years of air refueling, a pivotal advancement that revolutionized the capabilities of military aviation. The event paid tribute to the United States Army Air Service’s groundbreaking demonstration of air-to-air refueling on June 27, 1923, when a De Haviland DH-4B successfully transferred 75 gallons of gasoline through a gravity-flow hose to another aircraft flying beneath it.

“Milwaukee’s Hometown Brew City Tankers have provided essential fuel to US and NATO receivers in every major conflict since 1963,” said Col. Adria Zuccaro, 128th Air Refueling Wing commander. “One hundred years of experience has trained us well and we are ready to deliver unstoppable air power across the world.”

Air refueling, also known as aerial refueling or in-flight refueling, has become an indispensable technique that has transformed the way military aircraft operate. It allows for extended flight durations, increased range, and enhanced operational flexibility.

The ability to transfer fuel from one aircraft to another mid-flight has proven instrumental in enabling strategic missions, global reach, and rapid response capabilities for military forces across the world.

 - Tech Sgt. Jacob Dunsmore
128th Air Refueling Wing air crew prepare to take off for the Centennial Contact event June 27. This special occasion commemorated 100 years of air refueling, a pivotal advancement that revolutionized the capabilities of military aviation. 128th Air Refueling Wing photo by Tech. Sgt Jacob Dunsmore

“Air refueling propels our nation’s air power across the skies, unleashing its full potential,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command. “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.”

Participating in the Centennial Contact event allowed the 128th Air Refueling Wing to pay homage to the pioneers who paved the way for air refueling a century ago.

The Centennial Contact event not only celebrated the past but also emphasized the importance of air refueling in the future of military operations.

“As we embark on the next 100 years of air refueling, we will continue to strengthen our air mobility excellence,” Minihan said. “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.”

As the 128th Air Refueling Wing actively contributed to the Centennial Contact event, it reaffirmed its position as a key player in shaping the future of air refueling. The event served as a reminder of the profound impact air refueling has had on military operations over the past century.

With their unwavering dedication and expertise, the members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing continue to play a vital role in advancing the capabilities of military aviation, ensuring that the legacy of air refueling remains strong for generations to come.