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Gateway To Afghanistan

Dispatches from Manas

`Gunslingers’ on patrol over Afghanistan

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets from the decorated U.S. Navy attack squadron VFA 105, commonly known as the “Gunslingers,” were among the half dozen fighter jets refueled Saturday above Afghanistan by a Fairchild-based KC-135 tanker and crew on deployment in Kyrgyzstan.

The carrier-based strike fighters rely on the aerial tanker’s wing-mounted refueling hoses rather than the tail boom that most aircraft use for air-to-air fuel deliveries. The fighter jet’s fuel nozzle is located on the nose of the aircraft, which pilots must guide into the hose and keep their speed and course matched up with the KC-135R Stratotanker until the delivery is complete.

The squadron’s jets are easy to spot because its nickname is emblazoned in capital letters across the strike fighters’ massive drop tanks.

The Gunslingers have racked up a number of history-making accomplishments, including first fighter squadron led by a female, Cmdr. Sara Joyner, who also has become the first woman to lead an entire carrier air wing. The squadron is based aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which has been launching combat sorties in support of U.S. and Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan since this summer.

UPDATES
An SR photo slideshow from the refueling sortie can be found here: http://www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/over-afghanistan/
An electronic version of The SR article published Tuesday about the Manas refueling mission can be found here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/oct/19/front-line-support/


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About this blog

Fairchild Air Force Base supplies 80 percent of the military aircraft and flight crews operating out of Manas Transit Center, a key hub along one of the primary NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. The small base, located outside the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, is barely 400 miles from the Afghan border.

Contributors

Colin Mulvany is a staff photographer for The Spokesman-Review.

David Wasson is a deputy city editor for The Spokesman-Review.

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