NATO air commanders were quick to praise the contribution of Allied air-to-air refueling tankers, to the success of Operation Deliberate Force. "Without the tankers it wouldn't have happened," says one US commander.

Tankers in three countries from four air forces supported Operation Deliberate Force. The USAF drafted in five McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extenders to support the raids against Bosnia from Genoa in Italy. US and French Boeing KC-135Rs, operated from Pias, Italy and Istres, in southern France, in support of NATO fighters. More USAF KC-135s flew from RAF Mildenhall in the UK, to refuel NATO Boeing E-3 AWACS. Spanish Lockheed Martin KC-130s, and RAF Lockheed TriStars operating from Italy passed fuel to NATO fighters.

Throughout the operation, a KC-10 was kept on station for 24h a day in a tanker track over the Adriatic. To allow large strike packages to top up their tanks before heading for their targets, often six or eight tankers would be on station, with eight to 12 fighters lined up to refuel behind each tanker.

The probe-drogue and boom-refueling-system-equipped KC-10As were so much in demand because of their flexibility, that it was common for the boom-only KC-135s to be used to pass fuel to the Extenders, which would then refuel fighters.

Source: Flight International