KC-135's '62-3518' and '64-14837', which are from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 72nd Air Refueling Squadron, 434th Air Refueling Wing, based at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana arrived in Sydney earlier in this week from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Arriving as LULU23 and LULU24 respectively, they were the first of the aforementioned type to touch down on NSW soil, in just under 9 years. However, the welcomed visit didn't go according to plan.
One of the KC-135R's were damaged on Tuesday during a ground-handling incident. A tug, under operation by Qantas, was pushing the KC-135R aircraft from its parking bay, when one of the tanker’s nose landing gear doors was damaged by the tug. According to a source familiar with the incident, the incident fractured the KC-135R’s rear nose landing gear door, and thus, its planned mission has now been canceled.
The second KC-135R, which had earlier been pushed back in preparation for takeoff, was also subsequently towed back by a replacement tug.
Their role was to provide tanker support for a pair of B-52 bombers, of call signs ADIOS01 and ADIOS02, which were conducting a Global Strike Command mission along Australia’s Eastern coastline on the same day as the incident.
While the damage to the KC-135R did not appear to be serious, its inability to take off to support the B-52s meant the bombers had to amend their initial plan to directly return to Guam after their training mission. The bombers instead diverted to Darwin.