Re the comment: “The Brits carried much of the in-flight refueling burden in the Afghan campaign. It got to the point that our Navy and Marine pilots steered off USAF tankers if the Brits were around because the Brit refueling equipment linked more easily to that used by our carrier aircraft.”
And the reason for that is that the Navy still clings to probe/drogue refueling while the rest of U.S. aviation uses a boom/receptacle arrangement. Those using the latter are all USAF and include the “heavies” that need to take on a lot of fuel in a short time. I suppose that USN clings to the old ways because they have no pressing need for passing a lot of fuel quickly; however, the boom/receptacle arrangement is more efficient, reliable, and less prone to damage because of the antics of the receiver (that’s the one taking on fuel). I don’t know what the flow rates for USAF receivers are nowadays, but when I was doing the air refueling job the max fuel flow from a KC-135 to a nearly empty B-52 was on the order of 8,000 ppm. We could fill a B-52 with 100,000 pounds of fuel in 20 minutes or so in good weather conditions; it took a bit longer in rough weather, but we generally got the fuel transferred. I was also on the receiving end with a probe/drogue arrangement flying the long defunct B-66. It was a real challenge to refuel in rough weather; often times a probe would break off in the drogue or someone would smash the drogue. When that happens the show stops and everyone goes home — or bails out.
The KC-135, venerable old bus that it is, can be made probe/drogue capable, but doing that removes the preferred capability. That dedicates a tanker to doing nothing but probe/drogue refueling. When the worst happens you essentially remove a tanker full of fuel from the lineup. I know of at least one case where a USAF KC-135 saved several USN aircraft — including some of their tanker aircraft (modified A3-Ds) over the Gulf of Tonkin. It happened in the summer of 1967, and the KC-135 crew won a trophy for outstanding airmanship.
In a way, I can understand the Navy’s reluctance to change to the boom/receptacle arrangement even though it is the more efficient and easier air refueling method. There would be considerable expense — and someone would have to come up with a boom-equipped tanker that could launch/recover on an aircraft carrier. Maybe because the USN screwed up their stealth fighter project (and a few others) they are all the more reluctant to try making the switch.p>Other than that, I thought Babbin’s article was spot-on. br> — Gerald P. Hanner br> Papillion, NE
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