On 24th October 2022, KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 909th Air Refuelling Squadron USAF, operating from Kadena air base in Okinawa, Japan, completed a joint training exercise with the US Navy F/A-18 Hornets. The training was executed over the Pacific Ocean and focused on improving interoperability among the US armed forces.
In present-day military aviation, air-to-air refuelling is an important factor, significantly enhancing the capabilities of combat and transport aircraft. Due to the in-flight refuelling, the aeroplanes can stay in the air much longer, therefore extending both their range and operational abilities. Long-range flights are limited only by crew tiredness and engineering factors. What´s more, thanks to air-to-air refuelling, combat aircraft are able to take-off with a greater payload than usual. While still maintaining their maximum take-off weight limit, the amount of cargo or weapon can be increased by carrying less fuel that can be topped up in the air.
Nevertheless, air-to-air refuelling is also one of the most difficult operations used in contemporary aviation. It requires not only a perfect organization and planning but also experienced crews that know all the procedures. Mastering operational measures, establishing a clear interaction between crews, as well as confidence in piloting skills – that´s why continuous training and improvement is so important for any airmen performing long-range flights and operating far away from their home bases.
One of such trainings was executed in October of 2022. Within that exercise, the US Navy fighters operating over the Pacific Ocean received fuel from the KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 909th Air Refuelling Squadron, 18th Wing USAF.
Mastering the in-air refuelling procedure is the essential skill for combat pilots operating in the Indo-Pacific area, characterized by small number of air bases and long distances to operational areas. As emphasized by the US military, such exercises improve interoperability among different branches of the US armed forces and enables more effective teamwork during real-world engagements.
Cover photo: A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron during a joint training exercise over the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 24, 2022 (USAF photo by Sr Airman Jessi Roth). All photos © U.S. Department of Defence (DoD). DoD information materials were used, in compliance with Public Domain licence. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.