Air Refueling Archive

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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.

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May 10, 2009 Posted by | 1970s, A-10, External View, KC-97 | , | 8 Comments