Air Refueling Archive

Huge Collection of Air Refueling Pictures

A-10 Refueling From a KC-97L

Two Fairchild Republic A-10As refuel with a Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker (S/N 53-355) of the Texas Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo) Click image to enlarge.

Two Fairchild Republic A-10As refuel with a Boeing KC-97L Stratotanker (S/N 53-355) of the Texas Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo) Click image to enlarge.

In this picture a pair of Fairchild A-10As are being refueled by a KC-97L. I am unaware of the exact date of this picture, but the A-10 first flew on 10 May 1972 and the KC-97 was retired in 1978 so the picture must have been taken somewhere in that window.

The Strategic Air Command took delivery of its first KC-97 on 14 July 1951. The main production version of the KC-97 was the KC-97G of which 592 were built. By 1958 SAC operated 780 KC-97s, but the 1957 introduction of the KC-135 meant that the -97s days were numbered. The piston powered KC-97 was too slow for the new generation of fighters and too small for the newly introduced B-52.  The KC-135 was an all new design that was more than fast enough to keep up with the fighters and had sufficient offload to support the B-52. In 1958 SAC began to decommission its KC-97 fleet.

In April of 1961 the Air National Guard received its first KC-97 from SAC. The mission of the KC-97 under the guard was to refuel the Tactical Air Command’s fighters. During refueling with fighters the KC-97 was required to fly as fast as possible while its receiver flew on the edge of a stall. Often times the refueling had to be conducted in a shallow dive (toboggan) so that the tanker could maintain a minimum speed required by the fighter. Surplus General Electric J47 jet engines were available from decommissioned KB-50 tankers and they were added under the wings of the KC-97E/Fs. The upgraded aircraft was redesigned the KC-97L. Each J47 produced 5,800 lbs of thrust which drastically increased the performance of the KC-97 and gave it enough extra speed to keep up with fighters of the day.

Just as the KC-97 was too slow for fighters of the day, the KC-135 was too fast for the A-10. Refueling between a heavily laden A-10 and KC-135 produced a situation where the A-10 did not have enough thrust to fly at the KC-135’s minimum flying speed. When refueling A-10s, the KC-135 was limited to a maximum gross weight of 250,000 lbs and even then it was often required to lower its flaps to 20º or 30º. The KC-97L and A-10 were a perfect match due to their similar flying speeds.


Image Source:

May 10, 2009 - Posted by | 1970s, A-10, External View, KC-97 | ,


  1. Love the site. I was a Boomer at Dow AFB 60 to 64.
    Just found it and I will be back. Thanks much.


    Comment by Dan Boles | July 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. I was a refueling operator on the KB-50J. From 1960 to 1965 at Biggs AFB Tex. I enjoyed your site. I will be back

    Bobby Oliver

    Comment by Bobby Oliver | December 12, 2009 | Reply

  3. Neat photo. Actually the two probably paired up pretty good. Drug some home from the UK once, started off dropping flaps, hitting speed brakes, etc for the first refuel just to slow dopwn and stay in the air and the A-10 was “screaming” to keep up. Spent 14 actual hours of over the Atlantic with a stop at the Azores for the night, on what should have been about a 8-9 hours flight from Fairford to Altus OK…

    Comment by Marcus Haberichter | March 30, 2010 | Reply

  4. A question for the KC-97 folks? Was it normal to feather a engine during the AR? I know the A-10’s were slow…..In the picture, it shows the #3 prop feathered…I think…..

    Comment by Tebo Tobola | October 25, 2010 | Reply

  5. I just returned from a San Diego quick Va-Ca too take In the USS MIDWAY before It closed down for seven months of renovations. If you haven’t herd San Diego bought the Big Kiss from New York of Maryln Monroe and there putting it there. On my voyage there on I-215 I came across March A.F.B Air Field Museum. While taking the tour saw my fathers old K-97 that he was boom operator of. It was Awesome to see that there. My pops was in from 1948 thru 1976 In the Fuel Maintenance Squadron his entire career till E-8 retirement. They even have a SR-71 BLACKBIRD In hanger there that could be airborne In 40 hrs notice.! A retired clerk there on staff turn me on to your Web Page keep up the great work your Involved In doing. Thank You D
    Duane Cole

    Comment by Duane Cole | January 27, 2013 | Reply

  6. I was stationed in Iceland from Feb 77 to March 78. We sat Air Defense alert there in the mighty F-4C. We launched from alert one day in fall 77 with directions to look for a KC-97 that was tanking for a four ship of A-10 from Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, to “Europe”, (yes, the boneyard). The A-10s were not yet based at Bentwaters. This was to be their first deployment to evaluate the A-10 in the European environment. One of the A-10s was single engine due to a malfunction in one of the engine modules for the TF-34 engine, as we learned later. They (KC-97 and A-10) were at about 10,000 feet and had no idea of exactly where they were because the had no TACAN lockon and were not visible on ground (GCI) radar. The ground radar and the TACAN were not that far apart so it was simply a line of sight issue. We found them – did I mention that it was a murky day – and were closing. I commented to my AC that we still had 150 knots of overtake at a mile and a half so out came the speed brakes and then the flaps. Mr. Haberichter’s comment above was completely correct – those two aircraft were meant for each other. Unfortunately the KC-97 was retired in 1978 while the A-10 is still a going concern. No photos from that launch, unfortunately, although I do have an excellent shot of an F-4C formatting with a Bear D at sunset.

    Comment by David McDonald | January 28, 2013 | Reply

  7. Reblogged this on The Lexicans and commented:
    More unique stuff from Air Refueling Archive

    Comment by ORPO1 | February 17, 2013 | Reply

  8. Veery energetic blog, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

    Comment by recents news articles | January 16, 2015 | Reply

  9. My dad was a KC 97 crewchief in the 60’s and it was his baby. I remember him telling stories about going to Africa (Morroco) and coming back and stopping in the Azores (where he picked up a dog named blackie) and going to Tuele Greenland. He was staioned at Hensley Field in Grand Prairie, Texas at Texas Air National Guard. I also remember going to work with him a couple of times. I know he looked for years to find a model of the ’97 and never found one until I found a model of the Boeing 377 and sent it to him. He made a ’97 out of it and kept it until he died. He had a picture of a ’97 refueling an F-111. The last one I ever saw was in 1978 at McChord AFB, Wa when I was in the Air Force.

    Comment by Jim Barbas | October 29, 2015 | Reply

    • Who was your pop?

      Comment by Chuck in Texas | July 6, 2016 | Reply

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