U.S. Air Force Uses Commercial Aerial Refueling For The First Time

U.S. Air Force Uses Commercial Aerial Refueling For The First Time


File photograph of a Metrea KC-135. (Picture credit score: Metrea)

Years after the Navy, the Air Power determined to complement its tanker fleet with business aerial refueling providers.

The U.S. Air Power employed for the primary time final month a business aerial refueling service to refuel a RC-135 Rivet Joint and E-3 Sentry throughout train Resolute Hunter 23-2. From June 23 by way of June 29, 2023, Metrea Strategic Mobility offered 4 aerial refueling assist missions for the RC-135 and E-3 plane concerned within the train, with a complete of 13 growth contacts and practically 90,000 kilos of gasoline offloaded.

Commercial refueling
A Metrea KC-135R refuels a RC-135 Rivet Joint throughout train Resolute Hunter. (Photograph: Metrea)

“It was becoming that we may assist the US Air Power in reaching this main milestone throughout the identical week that we marked the a hundredth anniversary of aerial refueling,” mentioned Jon “Ty” Thomas, Head of Metrea’s Air and Area Group. “Our workforce labored intently with NAVAIR, Air Fight Command, and the receiver RC-135 and E-3 models to tug this off and ship the coaching impact wanted. We sit up for supporting extra US Air Power refueling necessities in addition to rising demand from allies and companions.”

Business air-to-air refueling isn’t a novelty, because the U.S. Navy has been utilizing it in coaching and non-combat operations for many years. Till now, nonetheless, there was an absence of economic tankers geared up with the growth, the principle air-to-air refueling technique utilized by the Air Power. In truth, the well-known Omega Aerial Refueling Providers, which is usually seen supporting Navy jets, operates KC-707 geared up with probe-and-drogue refueling systems, the popular technique of the Navy.

Solely in 2020 Omega and Metrea acquired a former Dutch KDC-10 and Singaporean KC-135Rs, respectively, equipped with boom system. The primary-ever business growth aerial refueling was then carried out in April 2023, when a Metrea KC-135R refueled two P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol plane over a interval of 4 hours off the coast of Florida.

In that event, Metrea reported it has a mission reliability price of 93% since starting execution of a NAVAIR contract in late 2021 and has flown over 130,000 accident-free flying hours, throughout a number of plane sorts, missions, and geographies in assist of US, UK, and different allied and companion authorities nationwide safety targets.

A Metrea KC-135R. (Photograph: Mark Chen through Metrea)

The Air Power has been dealing with for some years a tanker scarcity, with the retirement of the KC-10 Extender, the exhaustion of the remaining KC-135 Stratotankers’ service life and the delays of the brand new KC-46 Pegasus. Due to this, in 2020 the Air Power performed a feasibility research to find out whether or not it’s cost-effective to make use of business aerial-refueling providers.

The Air Power estimated it would want about 6,000 additional flying hours per 12 months, with the extra tanking capability costing between $15,000 and $27,000 per flying hour and taking wherever from one to 10 years to implement. In 2020, Gen. Maryanne Miller, then commander of Air Mobility Command, mentioned business aerial-refueling providers could relieve pressures on the military’s own tankers, filling the hole for U.S. missions when there’s excessive demand overseas.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to attain a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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