How RAF Mildenhall air base is supporting NATO operations in Ukraine

For generations, a small market town in Suffolk has been home to the US's most powerful UK airbase.

Despite its status as a Royal Air Force station, RAF Mildenhall - just 14 miles from Bury St Edmunds - primarily supports American troops and has done so since 1950.

These days it's home to the 100th Refuelling Wing, that operates across 104 nations to keep US Air Force planes in the sky across Europe and Africa.

Recently, personnel based there have been supporting NATO operations in Ukraine, flying missions ranging from hostage rescues to medical evacuations.

Though the precise details of the missions they fly are confidential, the team were able to share some of the more hair-raising moments their training prepares them for, when ITV News Anglia visited the base this week.

Captain Molly Timmerman, who is based at RAF Mildenhall, recalled one "awe-inspiring" close shave when her engine failed as she was flying over Syria.

But she says her intensive real-life Top Gun-style training meant that she was able to complete her mission.

RAF Mildenhall is part of the United States Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) Credit: ITV News Anglia

She told ITV Anglia: "I actually had a complete engine failure.

"But it was pretty neat to be able to take my training and execute the emergency procedures and get the jet back... and the crew back safely."

A plane being refuelled in mid-air Credit: Pictures from USAF

One of the wing's primary responsibilities is refuelling - a process that takes place in mid-air and can occasionally be a challenge.

SRA Jesse Santiago said: "It's the only job in the world where the aircrafts are actually supposed to touch.

"Once we do come into contact, we are just one aerodynamic machine flying through the sky.

"The 100th ARW is the only permanent active duty refuelling wing in Europe so we are very busy with people coming from the States.

"A lot of our allies here in Europe are constantly asking for gas - and we're the only gas station in town, as we like to say."

Plane refuelling in mid-air Credit: Pictures from USAF

Technical Sergeant Christopher Fraser's job is to maintain the KC-135 Stratotakankers and ensure they are fit to fly - a job he describes as being like an "aero-doctor".

He was born to American parents in Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, and has a personal link to the area.

His father was in the security forces and was one of the officers on the base at Mildenhall and his childhood was spent on air force bases in the UK and America, so it was no surprise when he joined up himself.

He said: "You tend to get very invested in the aircraft to the point where you know all its quirks, and what's different from that one to the one parked next to it.

"Being here and seeing the aircraft - it's always a proud moment for me."

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