[Photo] French Rafale damages Refueling Probe while taking fuel from U.S. KC-135 tanker over Mali

May 19 2014 - 17 Comments

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 and French Rafale involved in an mid-air emergency over Mali.

Taken from a 100th ARW (Air Refueling Wing) KC-135 Stratotanker during what seemed to be (at least until then) a routine aerial refueling mission in support of Operation Serval, in Mali, the above image shows a French Air Force Rafale jet breaking to the left to separate from the tanker after the tip of IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe was severely damaged.

According to the Escadron de chasse 01.091 “Gascogne”, who posted the image, the aircraft, with full load of weapons, was refueling from the U.S. tanker in turbulent air due to an intertropical front.

A sudden and violent oscillation impossible for the pilot to compensate, forced the Rafale to disconnect from the tanker’s refueling hose causing a cloud of fuel to surround the cockpit and the basket to hit the probe of the receiver, damaging it.

As a consequence, the Rafale immediately separated from the tanker and, unable to return to N’Djamena, it proceeded to the nearest divert field, where it safely landed.

Just in case you thought that AAR operations are just routine

Photo: 100th ARW / U.S. Air Force


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  • noname

    French pilots are like French citizens….no more complex than that. Never fired…only dropped once.

    • noname

      French citizens or french rifles?

      • Pierre

        Haha, everytime the word “French” appears on an article there is someone to post this kind of comment, this never cease to amaze me :D
        We (FR) have stereotypes as well (even worse than that BTW) but we’re smart enough not to throw them around at every occasion.
        Cheers ;)

  • Who will pay for the damage to the French jet or the American basket?

    • ODM


    • Marco

      No one is going to invoice no one. Everyone will pay for its damages as part of the overall Mali operation budget. And I am pretty sure the American flight time and all is not billed to the French and viceversa.

    • Marco

      Intervening in a war, either shooting or just supporting is a political choice motivated by all the stuff that politics is made of, not a sheer economic exchange.
      …else the US had the longest list of suppliers to pay since the Korean war on.

  • StanSki

    Damn surrender monkeys. Always giving up when the chips are down. (joke)

  • freewheelinfranklin543

    Don’t worry the French and the US will be in Mali til they steal all their gold!

  • joe

    I think thats a KC-10. The hose is too long to be a 135. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Mike

      You are absolutely correct.

      • cencio4

        I don’t think it’s a KC-10. The image was published by 100ARW and I think only KC-135 have been involved in Mali air ops.

    • Green in the Blue

      First, I know the guy that took this photo
      Second, they are 135s http://www.usafe.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123347585
      Third, KC-10s don’t have the wing pods to do drouge refueling

  • LaMarca

    A view from a different angle: http://goo.gl/1Vu6nm

  • Pierre

    Fortunately the probe debris wasn’t swallowed by the engine.

  • B-Sabre

    I have to wonder – is anybody proposing or working on actively stabilized or “flying” drogues for refueling? I would think you could mount aerodynamic controls on the drogue to take out most of the bumps.