I know next to nothing about planes, so excuse any naivety below… 

I live in Denver CO and frequently see military planes in what look to be training exercises. Today I saw two pairs of planes (one "big" and one "fighter") flying really close and am curious if the planes and/or exercise are identifiable. One pair disappeared behind the building before I could get a picture of both, so attached is just a picture of the trailing pair.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Mommy, what's that plane doing with that other plane? $\endgroup$
    – hobbs
    Jun 29 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ If this is happening low enough that you can easily notice it from the ground and snap a clear photo (assuming you are not a news reporter or bird watcher etc who regularly carries around a camera with a long telephoto lens), it is probably being done for the benefit of people on the ground (air show, stadium flyover, etc) or as a rehearsal for such activities. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 21:46

1 Answer 1


The larger airplane is a Boeing KC-135 Air Refueling jet and the smaller jet behind is being refueled.

enter image description here

(Image from Wikipedia)

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    $\begingroup$ Today's refuelings might be only simulations, without fuel flowing. That's how EAA Airventure Oshkosh did it a few years ago. $\endgroup$ Jun 27 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Mainly because Oshkosh chose that. Also, for them and for today, less risk, less expense (an empty tanker is lighter and thus burns less fuel itself), and the "refuelee" doesn't actually need more fuel. $\endgroup$ Jun 27 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ I mean for an airshow I agree that a full load of gas in the tanker and topping off receivers is completely unnecessary, but if you are near a military base, and they are doing it for training, it is pretty standard practice to take a sip and check that systems are functional. $\endgroup$ Jun 27 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson In the entire history of the US military's use of mid-air refueling planes, only one plane has ever been destroyed, and it was due to a ground maintenance accident, not during a refueling. It's not as dangerous as you seem to think. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman - Incorrect, there was one. The 1966 B-52-KC-135 collision over Palomares Spain resulted in the loss of both aircraft. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Palomares_B-52_crash. The recovery of one of the B28 bombs was in the movie 'Men Of Honor'. And I was at Barksdale when the lone KC-10 incident happened. We felt/heard the "boom" over a mile away. $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Jun 30 at 18:58

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