If you thought an aerial tanker’s "flying boom" was rigid, you better watch this video

Used as the standard aerial refueling system for U.S. Air Force fixed-wing aircraft the flying boom is a rigid, telescoping tube, maneuvered by a “boom operator” by means of a control stick.

This method has the advantage to eliminate the requirement for the receiver pilot to plug the probe into the hose’s drogue: once the aircraft has reached the refueling position the operator moves the boom to insert the tube in the receptacle of the receiver aircraft.

The following video shows the boom’s maneuverability: it can be moved quite quickly to follow the receiving plane and prevent it from disconnecting during refueling.

Both the KC-135 and the KC-10 tankers have a single boom that can be can be equipped with an adapter for probe-equipped aircraft and can refuel one receiver at a time. The KC-135 replacement plane, the future KC-46 based on the KC-767, will be fitted with a single boom and two hoses to refuel also aircraft using the probe and drogue mechanism.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

About David Cenciotti 4418 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

2 Comments

  1. You wrote: “Both the KC-135 and the KC-10 tankers have a single boom that can be can be equipped with an adapter for probe-equipped aircraft ”

    Are you sure it is true also for kc-10? As long as I remember KC-10 has a hose for ‘probe and drogue” planes near the boom station, as seen here:

    http://www.google.it/imgres?hl=it&client=firefox-a&hs=Rgb&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:it:official&biw=1883&bih=977&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnsb&tbnid=I1kIFnXdA1RcxM:&imgrefurl=http://www.arrse.co.uk/current-affairs-news-analysis/173422-britain-may-without-fully-operational-aircraft-carrier-until-2030-a-31.html&docid=PkMUznYzkfjMRM&imgurl=http://media.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_KC-10_Drogues_F-18C_Nimitz_lg.jpg&w=800&h=540&ei=2xxWT-6pN8vb4QSYloi6Cg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=494&sig=110034087852730464951&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=195&start=0&ndsp=40&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0&tx=118&ty=97

    And, if I remember correctly, some Kc-10 has been modified adding two “house and drogue” pods on the wings

    Thank you for your interesting articles.

    • You are absolutely right. It’s not the same modification. The KC-135 can be modified with the addition of the hose to the tube, while the KC-10 has a hose next to the boom (that is not extended).

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