Air Force Practices Mid-Air Refueling

      September 20, 2011 11:55

      Air Force fighter jets are for the first time practicing mid-air refueling in South Korean skies. The exercise started Friday and will last until Sept. 30. F-15Ks and F-16/KF-16s are being refueled from a U.S. military aircraft.

      An Air Force spokesman on Monday said the exercise is being carried out in skies over the West Sea using a KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft from the U.S.' Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

      Sixteen Korean pilots -- eight each of the F-15s and F-16s/KF-16s -- will acquire aerial refueling licenses by training with nine U.S. Air Force pilot trainers twice by day and twice by night, the spokesman said. "The Air Force wants them to maintain their licenses through training every six months. It also plans to have 16 new pilots acquire the licenses every year," he added.

      ◆ Challenging Task

      Aerial refueling takes place between two high-speed aircraft, and a small mistake could lead to a big accident.

      In the first round of exercise last Friday, the KC-135 and F-15K flew at a speed of about 700 km/h with a refueling boom stuck in the F-15K's receptacle. Refueling took about five minutes. The two aircraft were 15 m apart, with the tanker flying only 5 m above the F-15K. The KC-135 can carry fuel equivalent to a full tank of 1,000 cars.

      ◆ Aerial Refueling Systems

      About 30 countries in the world have refueling aircraft and there are two aerial refueling systems -- the flying boom and the probe-and-drogue. The current drill practices using the flying boom.

      In the other system, the drogue stabilizes the hose in flight and provides a funnel to aid insertion of the receiving aircraft probe into the hose. This system is used by China, Russia and European nations, as well as U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

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