One of the most difficult aviation evolutions made more difficult: incredible aerial refueling footage showing the extended refueling probe of the CH-53E move significantly from vibration and the boundary layer passing over it at speed…
Pilots will tell you midair refueling is a challenge. Add midair refueling a rotary wing aircraft like this U.S. Marine CH-53E Super Stallion carrying a 5,200-pound sling loaded HUMVEE vehicle while using a flexible drogue system and you have a very difficult refueling exercise.
This video shows a CH-53E from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 464, the “Condors” of Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina operating as part of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 29. The helicopter is taking on fuel from a U.S. Marine KC-130J from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 234 on Feb. 23, 2017.
Midair refueling with a large vehicle sling load could be a necessity for small U.S. Marine teams conducting special operations in a denied environment. This is especially important for the Marine’s own reconnaissance units, who provide tactical and strategic level intelligence in support of larger Marine operations as seen in the Gulf wars. Additionally, this type of unusual aviation operation would support the newest Marine Corps special operations asset, the Marine Special Operations Command or “MARSOC”.
Finally, a more mundane application of this type of midair refueling may simply be recovering a vehicle that broke down in normal operations.
Regardless of the reason for an operation like this, it is a difficult bit of flying. The KC-130J Hercules, assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 234, has a published stall speed of 100 knots (115 MPH, 185 KPH) while the top speed of the MH-53 helicopter is about 170 MPH without the sling load, and probably almost 30-40 MPH slower with the added drag of the big HUMMV hanging below the aircraft. This gives the two flight crews only about 25-40 MPH of airspeed variance between the aircraft in this configuration to work with. Add some unfavorable winds and this can be a difficult bit of flying.
When you watch the above video carefully you see a number of the risks inherent to midair refueling helicopters. Watch both the refueling basket or “drogue” oscillate in the boundary layer of air at speed and the extended refueling probe of the CH-53E also move significantly from vibration and the boundary layer passing over it at speed. In the instant prior to contact you may notice a bright spark of static electricity discharged into the refueling drogue. The charge is created by the rotation of the rotors. Finally, when the refueling drogue disconnects from the probe on the helicopter a significant mist of vaporized fuel is released. The entire inside of the MH-53E helicopter may smell like aviation fuel after the release of the drogue, making flight crews particularly concerned about any sparks igniting remaining fuel vapor.
This video certainly isn’t the first time this technique has been practiced, and Marine aviators will tell you it isn’t an unusual capability for them, just part of their mission set. Here are some even more remarkable photos taken over a year before this video of a Marine CH-53E with multiple sling-loaded vehicles, an extremely unusual mission requirement.
These photos and video support the Marine claims that they are among the very best and most versatile rotary wing, and fixed wing, aircrews in any air force in the world.
The UAE Air Force takes part in the air war on Daesh with the most advanced F-16 in the world. And here’s some interesting footage.
Filmed from aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, the video below shows United Arab Emirates F-16 Block 60+ Desert Falcons refueling during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition’s air war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, on Dec. 16, 2016.
The clip includes some rare close-up footage that provides interesting details about the payload of the world’s most advanced F-16s flown by the UAE Air Force in the anti-Daesh campaign.
There appear to be two configurations (both featuring CFTs, Sniper targeting pod and two drops tanks): the first one, includes 2x AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 2x GBU-12 LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), whereas the pilot wears the JHMCS (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System); the second one shows the Desert Falcons with 2x AIM-120B AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and 4x Mk-82 or BLU-111A/B “dumb bombs” (although they can’t be easily identified, hence they could also be Joint Direct Attack Munitions…).
Since 2005, the UAE Air Force operates the Block 60 F-16E/F a variant dubbed “Desert Falcon” described as “the most advanced F-16 variant in the world” for being equipped with a Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 AESA (active electronically scanned antenna) radar.
Considered “a half-generation ahead of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52+” the Block 60s, that the UAE Air Force has also flown in 2011’s Libya Air War, are also equipped with Northrop Grumman’s AN/ASQ-32 IFTS (Internal FLIR Targeting System) that is coupled up with the FLIR sensor on top of the nose in front of the cockpit, and with an Electronic Warfare that includes the Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite Radar Warning Receiver and the AN/ALQ-165 Self-Protection Jammer.
A clip with stunning footage showing U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II Special Operations performing aerial refueling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop and land.
The unit flies the MC-130J Commando II, mainly at low-altitude and at night, conducting clandestine missions with reduced probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats; the following video sumarizes all the activities carried out by the “Night Owls” during single and multi-ship sorties across Europe.
A KC-10 Extender has lost its flying boom. Someone’s found it in his hay-field….
A U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender aerial refueler belonging to the 60th Air Mobility Wing was forced to perform an emergency landing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, on Nov. 1, at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, after losing its flying boom.
According to an official release from Travis AFB, California, where the aircraft is based, the KC-10 was conducting training in support of Mountain Home AFB’s Gunfighter Flag Exercise when the refueling boom separated from the aircraft near the range complex.
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 aircraft made a successful emergency landing at Mountain Home AFB. “All crew members are safe and no injuries have been reported on the aircraft or on the ground,” says the release.
Interestingly, the photographs of the remains of the boom, taken by someone on the ground, emerged on social media.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter components have obtained the certification to refuel from the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A tankers.
One of the four Italian Air Force KC-767A aircraft has completed the testing required to certify the U.S. Navy fighter component to perform AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations with the new tanker.
The certification activities took place at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, home of VX-23, VX-31 and Marine Aircraft Group 14, where the Italian tanker, belonging to the 14° Stormo (Wing) Strategic Transport and Air Refueling from Pratica di Mare, deployed on Aug. 19.
According to the ItAF, the whole operation was completed in 10 weeks, six of those were focused on flight testing with U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Hornets, Super Hornets, Harriers and Prowlers.
Roughly one year ago, the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Flying Test Unit) deployed to the U.S. with the KC-767A to carry out the first certification of a USAF tanker with stereoscopic vision system (Remote Vision System – RVS). Furthermore, in the same period, a KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 14° Stormo became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29, 2015.
The KC-767A is a specific variant obtained from the commercial aircraft Boeing 767-200ER “Extended Range.” Equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10), and three hose and drogue stations, the tanker is be able to refuel both aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle and those with a refueling probe.
Interestingly, whilst in a KC-135 the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 the operators move the boom using a joystick and watching the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s rear fuselage. The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System that provides high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.