Tag Archives: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

A brand new, combat-proven, next generation tanker: on board Italy’s Boeing KC-767A

Although based on a quite mature civil airliner, the brand new KC-767 is a revolutionary type of aerial refueler. Indeed, in the KC-46 variant, it will be used by the U.S. Air Force as the NextGen Tanker to replace the KC-135E Stratotanker.

The aircraft, equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10), and three hose and drogue stations, is be able to refuel both aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle and those with a refueling probe.

The Italian Air Force, that presented the new aircraft to the media on Mar. 16, has received 4 such (long awaited) planes, used for strategic transportation (of both materials and weapons) and air-to-air refueling (AAR), whereas a MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) capability will be developed in the future.

The aircraft is operated by the 14° Stormo (Wing) based at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, and has already achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in both the Full Cargo, Combi and Full Pax configurations, with the FOC (Final Operational Capability) in all the current roles expected by the end of the year.

However, in May 2011, few weeks after being delivered, the KC-767 had its “baptism of fire” in Libya, boosting NATO’s AAR capability by supporting Italian Eurofighter, Tornado IDS and ECR, and AMX involved in Operation Unified Protector.

left observation

With the help of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Test Wing), the new tanker has already been qualified with all the tactical airplanes (“tacair”) of the Italian Air Force that use the hose and drogue system, and it has also conducted “buddy operations” using the flying boom to refuel another KC-767A. Qualification with foreign planes will be conducted in the near future, even if no roadmap has been defined yet.

Unlike all the previous boom-equipped tankers, the KC-767 uses an adveniristic remote boom operator’s station located behind the cockpit where boom operators, operate both the hoses and the flying boom by means of joysticks and images from a series of cameras mounted on the aircraft’s fuselage.

“With the KC-767, the Italian Air Force has acquired new capabilities that bring the service to the same level as the most advanced air forces of the world” Gen. Tiziano Tosi, chief of the Comando Squadra Aerea (Operational Forces Command), said.

“The new tanker integrates all the other solutions adopted by the Air Force to give all the Defense assets a high degree of mobility, needed to cope with the tasks undertaken by the country as part of coalitions within international scenarios” Tosi said, who explained that “the new fleet is an effective strategic solution to ensure quick and frequent movement of forces over long distances with significant payloads.”

In order to train in the same way it operates “in theatre”, the Italian Air Force is studying the possibility to keep one of its KC-767 in flight for several hours each day (or at least whenever some training flight is in progress) to give all the tacair planes involved in the daily sorties the opportunity to refuel as they would if they were involved in a real operation.

“Train as you fight, fight as you train”.

All the pictures in this article were taken by the author during the media presentation at Pratica di Mare and the AAR sortie inside the D-84 area, in the southern Tyrrhenian sea to refuel two Tornado IDSs, two AMXs and two Eurofighter Typhoons.


For the real aviation geek: F-22s, F-15s and B-2s filmed "in action" during Red Flag. From the ground. With audio.

Clear skies, contrails, a radio receiver tuned on the boomfreq, three KC-135 tankers and a lot of thisty receivers taking part to the Red Flag exercise. These are the things that make the following one of the geekiest videos I’ve seen recently.

Filmed from the ground by Paul Raguse from a spot located about 11 miles West of Caliente, Nevada, along Highway 93 on Mar. 9, 2012, the video shows two tankers equipped with the flying boom and one with the hose and drogue system refueling F-22s, F-15s, F-18s.

With a nice finale: the transit of a high flying B-2 stealth bomber.


Belgian Air Force F-16s refueling from U.S. tanker over Afghanistan. With boom operator's audio (and some wasted fuel…)

After publishing the previous article about the aerial tanker’s “flying boom” here’s another video taken during the same sortie, showing a U.S. KC-10 refueling a flight of two Belgian Air Force F-16s over Afghanistan. This time, the footage contains some audio that let you listen the boom operator talking with the two Viper pilots.

After completing the refueling operations, the two F-16s perform some tactical breaks from the country to give the opportunity to someone inside the boom operator’s station to film the stunts.


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