In-flight refueling; fighters and bombers

In-flight refueling is a skill that young aviators have to develop in the modern jet age. Jet engines consume a much larger amount of fuel. To be able to complete their missions, they often need to refuel. Bombers have much larger capacity and with refueling can strike virtually anywhere in the world from the USA.

In the video you will see two types of in-flight refueling: The Navy (NATO) Way and The US Air Force Way. As a former Naval Aviator I’m slanted to the Navy way as the most operationally effective, even though it is obviously harder. The biggest advantage to the Navy drogue and basket is that you can re-fuel a lot more aircraft. While flying missions over Iraq in the mid 90s, we routinely fueled from a French tanker. It had three hoses/baskets, thus three aircraft could in-flight refuel at a time. Granted, when you were the middle man, it was a tad tight and you had to be precise with a fighter a few feet off each wing and a tanker a few feet off your nose. The other way to multiply hoses in the air is through the use of buddy stores.

A buddy store is a hose and reel contained in what looks like a normal drop tank. The fighter/tanker then passes fuel to a striking fighter and either hits a big tanker after passing gas, or traps back on board the ship. A “Yoyo” tanker does just that. The fighter tanker will be first off the carrier, transfer all its fuel to strikers and then be the last to recover on the cycle that is landing. Usually about a 20 minute flight.

As the video shows it ain’t easy! Even if you get in the basket, if your closure rate is too fast…the basket will whip and tear off your probe or snap off the hose. It truly sucks being in a low fuel fighter, awaiting your turn, and watching your wingman “sour” the tanker. And just getting in is only half the battle; as fuel is transferred the center of gravity of the receiving aircraft changes and the weight increases. That can cause PIO (pilot induced oscillation), the results can be quite a ride!

My Aviator Book Series is moving into the jet age. My characters are taking to the skies over war torn Korea, Viet Nam is in outline form as I finish up on COLD WAR, HOT. My readers will soon be in the cockpit re-fueling on a night cycle before “going down town” over Hanoi, strap in with them!


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