Here is the video of the UCAS-D pluggin the retractable IFR (In-Flight Refueling) probe in the tanker hose basket.
The two X-47B technology demonstrators will be retired and probably donated to a museum or stored at the “boneyard”, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, after these aerial refueling tests: Navy stealth killer drones are “just” a technology demonstrator, a testbed for the future planned Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).
A former F-14 squadron, the VF-101 “Grim Reapers” was disbanded after the retirement of the Tomcat and was reactivated in 2012 to receive the controversial plane that is going to become the backbone of the U.S. carrier air wings strike capabilities: in fact, by 2025, the Navy’s aircraft carrier will operate a mix of F-35Cs, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye battle management and control aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft.
During the six-day visit, two F-35C Lightning II jets flew in formation over the Sierra Nevada mountain range with an F/A-18E and an F/A-18F belonging to VFA-122 from Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore.
Indeed the Viper can maneuver against any opponent, proving to be the ideal adversary (or “aggressor” in the Air Force jargon) aircraft for both U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy training programs. Arguably the best version of the Fighting Falcon having played the bandit role has been the F-16N.
Born in response to the need of the Navy to replace its aging fleets of A-4 Skyhawks and F-5 Tigers adversary fighters, the F-16N was a basic F-16C Block 30 with the General Electric F110-GE-100 engine.
The F-16N was typically equipped with the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pod on the starboard wingtip and to completely simulate adversaries, the ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and the ALE-40 chaff/flare were also incorporated.
To save weight the internal cannon was removed and the aircraft could not carry air-to-air missiles, even though it retained the APG-66 radar from the F-16A/B models.
According to Rick Llinares & Chuck Lloyd book Adversary America’s Aggressor Fighter Squadrons, since the U.S. Navy didn’t own any Fulcrum or Flanker, the F-16N was the best fighter to replicate the then new fourth generation Russian fighters and finally F-14 and F/A-18 crews could fight against a real different aircraft. In particular, against the Tomcat, the nimble F-16N was a very challenging adversary, as by the video below.
Unfortunately the F-16N began to experience the wear and tear due to the excessive g’s sustained during many aerial engagements and in 1994 the Navy decided to retire the type since the costly repair to keep the Viper flying can’t be afforded. But even if as bandit the F-16N was replaced by the F-5 which was the fighter the Viper intended to replace, the F-16N still remains the best adversary fighter ever flown by the U.S. Navy.