First visit of a KC-135 to the Mach Loop

A US Air Force 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker undertook a low-level training sortie yesterday evening (May 9, 2024), which for the first time included the Mach Loop in Wales.

Flying at low-level is a relatively new task for RAF Mildenhall’s 100th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) with the first such sortie taking place on December 15, 2023. At the time a 100th ARW spokesperson told Key.Aero: “This training is essential for flying below hostile radar, enabling closer proximity to the front line with increased fuel capacity for receivers.” They added: “…we’re giving any potential adversary a different problem set to address on a strategic level by creating problems for them at the tactical level. When adversaries know the USAF can employ airpower in a contested environment, side-by-side with capable Ally and Partner forces, they are more likely to respect national sovereignty and make decisions that improve global safety and security. Additionally, the 100th ARW Vision is to extend reach and deterrence through warrior-minded airmen.”

The incredible sight of a KC-135 at low level in the Tal-y-Llyn Pass (more commonly known as ‘Cad’ to aviation photographers) next to Cadair Idris mountain in the Mach Loop.
The incredible sight of a KC-135 at low level in the Tal-y-Llyn Pass (more commonly known as ‘Cad’ to aviation photographers) next to Cadair Idris mountain in the Mach Loop. James Roberts

Yesterday’s sortie, ‘Quid 43’, first utilised Low Flying Area (LFA 4) in the west of England before entering LFA 7 in South Wales. The Stratotanker routed west then coasted out before heading north over Cardigan Bay and turned inland to fly in North Wales. At 18:25hr the KC-135R, 59-1511/D, entered the Mach Loop from the north and flew a large part of it and once complete in LFA 7 climbed out before heading back east.