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F-15E Strike Eagle Sneaks Away From Under a Stratotanker, Bed of Clouds Awaits

Aerial refueling is one of the most complicated maneuvers pilots are asked to perform. Airplanes, one carrying fuel and another in need of it, have to come close together at high altitudes, match speeds and connect to each other in perfect coordination.
F-15E Strike Eagle leaving KC-135 Stratotanker 18 photos
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The idea of feeding fuel into planes while in the air is not new, as people have been toying with it since the 1920s. For a long time, the trials and tribulations of the pilots involved in such acts were mysteries happening above the clouds, and the rest of us mortals had to be content with imagining how that goes.

Then, cameras came to be, and the world got the first glimpse of aerial refueling at its finest in raw videos, shot from either the planes involved, or some other one, gliding nearby.

In more recent years, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) took aerial refueling and elevated it to an art form, as it started allowing airmen to take photos of non-secret parts of the operations. The talented eyes and hands of these people are responsible for incredible images like the one we have here. So incredible, in fact, that it kind of looks like a shot from some video game, something only a computer could have generated.

What you’re looking at is a still of a refueling op that took place at night somewhere over Southwest Asia in December 2020. The photo was published this month by the USAF in the Year in Photos album, and it’s for certain one of the most impressive of its kind we’ve featured in our Photo of the Day section.

It shows an F-15E Strike Eagle dropping away into the misty cloud blanket below, after getting its fix from a KC-135 Stratotanker deployed with the 50th Expeditionary Aircraft Refueling Squadron.

The only source of light for this still are the engines of the Stratotanker, shining orange on the fuselage of the F-15, and possibly some natural photons coming from the Moon we believe be shining from somewhere to the right of the two planes.

Editor's note: Gallery shows other F-15s.

 
 
 
 
 

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