Air Refueling Archive

Huge Collection of Air Refueling Pictures

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Refueling

I’ve been searching high and low for pictures of F-104 Starfighters doing in flight refueling. I’ve finally run across some decent examples.

F-104 Starfighter refueling probe.

F-104 Starfighter Air RefuelingF-104 Starfighter Air RefuelingF-104 Starfighter Air Refueling from KC-135F-104 Starfighter Air Refueling from KC-135

F-104 Starfighter refueling from KC-135

A F-104C refuels from a boom to drogue adapter (BDA) equipped KC-135 Stratotanker

A F-104C refuels from a boom to drogue adapter (BDA) equipped KC-135 Stratotanker

F-104 Starfighter Air Refueling from KC-135F-104 Starfighter Air Refueling from KB-50
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January 20, 2011 Posted by | 1960s, Boom Pod View, F-104, KC-135, Probe/Drogue | , | 3 Comments

50 Years Of The KC-135

Excellent documentary on the KC-135 Stratotanker including details on the tri-level refueling that earned the 1967 Mackay Trophy. Also included is a first hand account of towing a crippled F-4 Phantom. This mission received the 1983 Mackay Trophy.

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November 25, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, KC-135, KC-135A, KC-135R | Leave a comment

Experimenting with jet refueling – Multiple F-84 refueling configurations

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, air refueling had been around in an experimental capacity for nearly 30 years. With the end of the Second World War and the inception of the Cold War, air refueling was seen as a vital technology that had to be further developed so that fuel hungry jet aircraft would have the range and endurance required to perform their required missions. The F-84 Thunderjet existed during this time of air refueling development and refinement; therefore it saw numerous configurations that included multiple drogue and receptacle variants. One of the more interesting configurations tested was a dual probe system that required the F-84 to refuel each of its wingtip mounted tanks with a separate probe that was integral to each tank. This highly offset design made it difficult for the receiver pilot to accurately make contact with the tanker’s drogue. The distance from aircraft centerline meant that the pilot would have to look sideways to align the probe with the drogue. During this time he would have to use his peripheral vision to fly formation off of the tanker. Complicating matters was the fact that any roll would be magnified at the wingtip.

Another drogue refueling method employed by later model F-84s was a single point refueling probe. The probe was located on the left side of the forward fuselage. This positioning made it much easier for the pilot to see the probe while still being able to fly formation off of the tanker. This design has proved to be the best positioning for refueling probes, and aircraft today still feature their probes in a similar position with respect to the pilot.

A third refueling system that can be found on the F-84 is a boom receptacle installed on the upper surface of the left wing. This design allowed an equipped F-84 to receive fuel from a boom tanker. The boom method of refueling lowered the receiver pilot’s workload because all he had to do was fly into the air refueling envelope after which the tanker’s boom operator could precisely place the nozzle into the receptacle. The rigid flying boom also provides a certain amount of stability (especially to small and lightweight aircraft like the F-84) between the two aircraft by resisting forward and aft motion. The receiver aircraft is still free to move for and aft in the envelope, but must first exceed pressure relief valves in the boom’s retract mechanism.

Dual Wingtip Tank Refueling

An F-84 aligning with the drogue. Notice how far off center the pilot must look to line up the probe with the basket. Any turbulence would make this essentially impossible.

F-84 on the basket.

An F-84 refueling its right wingtip tank. Unknown cause of fuel spray, likely slosh from tank vent.

Refueling the left tank from the second probe.

F-84 refueling from KB-29

KB-29 refueling F-84E over Korea in 1952

Single Point Probe

F-84 with single point drogue refueling taking fuel from a KC-135.

Boom and Receptacle

A receptacle equipped RF-84 pulls into the contact position behind a KB-29P

F-84 in contact with a KB-29P

High over West Texas, two F-84Gs of the 31st Fighter Escort Wing pull in behind a waiting KB-29P during Operation Fox Peter One. Note the opened receptacle on the upper surface of the left wing.

A F-84 taking fuel from a KC-97G using the boom and receptacle method of refueling.

An F-84 banks off to the right after refueling from a KC-97. Note the opened receptacle and drop tanks.

An excellent image of an F-84 pulling up behind a KB-29P. The KB-29P was the only tanker to have the boom operator situated above the boom. It was found difficult to align the boom from this position.

F-84 Refueling from KC-97

August 24, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, 1960s, Boom Pod View, External View, F-84, General, History, KB-29, KC-135, KC-135A, KC-97, RF-84 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

F-106 Refueling

A trio of Convair F-106s refuel from a KC-135.

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft for the United States Air Force from the 1960s through the 1980s. Designed as the so-called “Ultimate Interceptor”, it has proven to be the last dedicated interceptor in USAF service to date. It was gradually retired during the 1980s. In this picture, a threesome of Darts take on fuel from a KC-135.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, External View, F-106, KC-135, KC-135A | , | 1 Comment

RF-84 Refueling from KC-135A

RF-84 Refueling from KC-135A

A pair of RF-84 Thunderjets refuel from a KC-135A Stratotanker. The RF-84 used a single point refueling probe that mated with the KC-135’s Boom-to-drogue adapter (BDA). This is in contrast to earlier F-84 models that refueled their wingtip tanks separately (each had its own probe fixed to the tip of the tank).

August 24, 2010 Posted by | 1950s, 1960s, External View, KC-135, KC-135A, RF-84 | , , | 1 Comment

YF-12 Refueling From KC-135

This is video of a Lockheed YF-12 refueling from a KC-135. The YF-12 would serve as the prototype for the now famous SR-71 Blackbird.

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November 24, 2009 Posted by | 1970s, Boom Pod View, KC-135, YF-12 | , , | Leave a comment

B-58 Refueling

A B-58 moves into contact behind a KC-135 Stratotanker.

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November 18, 2009 Posted by | 1960s, B-58, Boom Pod View, KC-135, KC-135A | , | 2 Comments

KC-135: History of Destroyed Aircraft

If anybody has information on these crashes, please use the comments below as a forum to add your inputs.

Below is a table that shows all destroyed -135 aircraft. The list includes KC-135, RC-135, and EC-135 aircraft. Even a brief look at this listing shows that flying the KC-135 and similar aircraft was anything but safe. Since the R model conversion the safety record has been on par with that of any modern airliner.

Date Tail Number KC-135 Model Base Summary of Events
27-Jun-58 56-3599 A Westover Heavy weight on takeoff, crashed one mile beyond runway
24-Nov-58 56-3598 A Loring Crosswind takeoff, lost No. 4 engine, lost control
21-Mar-59 58-0002 A Bergstrom Flew through thunderstorm, experienced structural failure
22-Jun-59 57-1446 A Walker Main fuel tank explosion on ramp (maintenance)
15-Oct-59 57-1513 A Columbus In-flight collision with B-52
3-Feb-60 56-3628 A Walker Gusty wind during takeoff, lost control, went off runway and crashed into 57-1449 and 57-1457 on ramp and a hanger, all three burned
3-Feb-60 57-1449 A Walker
3-Feb-60 57-1457 A Walker
8-Mar-60 57-1466 A Carswell Fog, aircraft landed on nm short, hit a power line and a building
18-Nov-60 56-3605 A Loring Hard landing, broke nose gear off, caused fuel fire
25-Jan-62 56-3657 A Altus Starter explosion during engine start, caused fuel fire
9-May-62 56-3613 A Loring Heavy weight takeoff, No. 2 engine failed, crashed 2500 feet beyond end of runway
8-Aug-62 55-3144 A Wright-Patterson Landed 2700 feet short of runway
10-Sep-62 60-0352 A Ellsworth Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) at Mt. Kit Carson near Fairchild AFB, WA
23-Oct-62 62-4136 B McGuire Landed 1000 feet short of runway in right bank at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
27-Feb-63 56-3597 A Castle Lost No. 1 engine during takeoff at Eielson, low visibility, night time
21-Jun-63 57-1498 A Westover Controlled flight into terrain; struck 790-foot hill, 5 nm short and 1 nm left of runway
28-Aug-63 61-0319 A Homestead In-flight collision with another KC-135 (Tail No. 61-0322) over Atlantic Ocean
28-Aug-63 61-0322 A Homestead In-flight collision with another KC-135 (Tail No. 61-0319) over Atlantic Ocean
11-May-64 60-0332 B Travis Hit a tower, 3500 feet short of runway, in heavy rain
8-Jul-64 60-0340 A Larson In-flight collision with F-105 during aerial refueling
4-Jan-65 61-0265 A Loring Lost No. 3 and No. 4 engines during takeoff, crashed 12,000 feet past runway
16-Jan-65 57-1442 A Clinton-Sherman Suspected hard-over rudder at Wichita
26-Feb-65 63-8882 A Dow In-flight collision with B-47, clear weather, over North Atlantic
3-Jun-65 63-8042 A Walker Controlled flight into terrain on low approach, in blowing sand storm
25-Jun-65 60-0373 A McGuire Controlled flight into terrain, night takeoff at El Toro, hit hills four miles beyond runway
17-Jan-66 61-0273 A Seymour Johnson In-flight collision with a B-52. Famous loss of nuclear weapons of Spanish coast.
17-May-66 57-1424 A Amarillo Wind rock during landing, lost control
19-May-66 57-1444 A Kadena Crashed during takeoff, performance problem, possibly windshear
19-Jan-67 56-3616 A Fairchild Controlled flight into terrain; hit Shadow Mountain during landing to base
19-Apr-67 55-3140 A Castle Destroyed during maintenance at Wake Island, right main gear failure
17-Jul-67 58-1465 R (rec) Offutt Stalled during takeoff, high rotation, in clear weather
17-Jan-68 58-0026 A March Crashed during takeoff in poor weather at Minot
30-Jul-68 56-3655 A Castle Structural failure during Dutch roll demonstration
24-Sep-68 55-3133 A Loring Three-engine go-around, forgot speed brakes, landed short
2-Oct-68 55-3138 A Robins Takeoff aborted after nose tires blew, went off runway at U-Tapoa
22-Oct-68 61-0301 A Westover Controlled flight into terrain; contact lost near CCK Taiwan
13-Jan-69 59-1491 RC/S Eielson Landing; lost control on icy runway in snow, at night
25-Mar-69 56-3602 A Loring Takeoff; aborted after S-1 following loss of water injection, broke apart
5-Jun-69 62-4137 RC/E Eielson Unknown cause; in-flight vibration reported, lost contact
19-Dec-69 56-3629 A Ellsworth Structural failure; lost contact, CCK Taiwan
3-Jun-71 58-0039 Q Torrejon Crashed following in-flight explosion of the nr. 1 main fuel tank. Chafing of boost pump wires in conduits was determined to be as a possible ignition source.
31 June 1971 61-0331 B Wright-Patterson Cause unknown; lost over Pacific Ocean
13-Mar-72 58-0048 A Carswell landed short; steep, idle approach
1-Jul-72 63-8473 F French AF Takeoff; lost No. 3 engine initially, then No. 4 later
8-Mar-73 63-7989 A Lockbourne Collided with another KC-135 (Tail No. 63-7980) during alert exercise
5-Mar-74 57-1500 A McConnell Crashed on takeoff; applied wrong rudder
8-Dec-75 60-0354 A Eielson Extreme cold weather; gear problem, stalled
6-Feb-76 60-0368 A K.I. Sawyer Crashed during approach into Torrejon
26-Sep-76 61-0296 A K.I. Sawyer Crashed near Alpena, Michigan
4-Mar-77 62-3522 A Griffiss Engine fire during maintenance
29-Apr-77 58-0101 A Castle Hit cattle on runway during touch-and-go at Beale
14-Sep-77 62-3536 EC/K Kirtland Controlled flight into terrain; after takeoff, hit mountain
19-Sep-79 58-0127 A Castle Flight instructor simulated engine failure on runway, lost control
30-Jan-80 58-0007 EC/P Langley Burned on ramp during heating of water
8-Feb-80 60-0338 Q Plattsburg Burned on ramp; aft body fire during refueling
15-Mar-81 61-2664 RC/S Eielson Landed short at Shemya, sheared off landing gear
6-May-81 61-0328 EC/N Wright-Patterson Runaway trim, rapidly lost altitude, Maryland
13-Mar-82 57-1489 A Arizona ANG In-flight collision with light aircraft during approach
19-Mar-82 58-0031 A Illinois ANG Exploded at 13,500 feet on approach to O’Hare
25-Feb-85 55-3121 RC/T Offutt Controlled flight into terrain; struck mountain near Valdez, Alaska during approach
19-Mar-85 61-0316 A Barksdale Burned on ramp in Cairo during refueling
27-Aug-85 59-1443 A Castle Hard landing, engine fire, stalled in turn
17-Jun-86 63-7983 A Grissom Hit the runway at Howard AB Panama, became airborne again and crashed into a hill in the jungle.
13-FEB-87 60-0330 A Altus Landed on the runway at altus afb on fire, cause was an arc in the fuel vapor area due to a compromised coax from the HF radio, aircraft subsequently burned to the ground in the infield after it rolled off the runway
13-Mar-87 60-0361 A Fairchild Airshow practice, hit wake turbulence, lost control
11-Oct-88 60-0317 A Wurtsmith Crashed on landing
31-Jan-89 63-7990 A K.I. Sawyer High crosswind, performance loss, lost control
21-Sep-89 57-1481 E Eielson Burned on ramp at Eielson
4-Oct-89 56-3592 A Loring In-flight explosion (aft body tank) during approach
11-Jan-90 59-1494 E Pease Burned on ramp at Pease (Video)
29-May-92 62-3584 EC/C Eielson On landing; ran off end of runway at Pope
10-Dec-93 57-1470 R Wisconsin ANG Burned on ramp; center wing explosion
13-Jan-99 59-1452 E Washington ANG Runaway trim in flare, nose up, stalled
26-Sep-06 63-8886 R Fairchild Struck on runway by departing aircraft at Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan.
3-May-13 63-8877 R McConnell In-flight breakup over Kyrgyzstan due to malfunctioning rudder power control unit.

June 4, 2009 Posted by | 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, KC-135, KC-135A, KC-135Q, KC-135R | , , | 392 Comments

Northrop YF-23 – In-Flight Refueling

A Northrop YF-23 inches toward the boom of a KC-135 during the Advanced Tactical Fighter test program. Click image to enlarge.

A Northrop YF-23 inches toward the boom of a KC-135 during the Advanced Tactical Fighter test program. Click image to enlarge.

Design and development

The YF-22 and YF-23 were competing in the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, conceived in the early 1980s, to provide a replacement for the F-15 Eagle. Contracts for the two most promising designs were awarded in 1986.

The YF-23 was designed to meet USAF requirements for survivability, supersonic cruise (supercruise), stealth, and ease of maintenance. Designed with all-aspect stealth as a high priority, Northrop drew on the company’s experience with the B-2 Spirit and F/A-18 Hornet. The YF-23 was an unconventional-looking aircraft with trapezoidal wings, substantial area-ruling, and a V-tail. It introduced the novel feature of rear jet nozzle troughs lined with heat ablating tiles developed by Allison, which shielded the exhaust from infrared (IR) detection from below. All the control surfaces were coupled together via the Vehicle Management System to provide “net effect” aerodynamic control. The wing flaps and ailerons deflected inversely on either side to provide yaw, while the tail provided pitch. Aerodynamic braking was achieved by deflecting the flaps and ailerons on both sides simultaneously.

Although possessing an advanced design, in order to reduce costs and development, a number of F-15 Eagle components were utilized including the standard F-15 nose wheel unit and the forward cockpit of the F-15E Strike Eagle. Two aircraft were built. YF-23 #1 (PAV-1) was fitted with Pratt & Whitney YF119 engines, while YF-23 #2 (PAV-2) was fitted with General Electric YF120 engines. The YF-23 featured fixed nozzles. The first YF-23 was rolled out on 22 June 1990, and first flew on 27 August 1990. YF-23 #2 first flew on 26 October 1990.

The black YF-23 (PAV-1) was nicknamed “Black Widow II”, after the Northrop P-61 Black Widow of World War II and had a red hourglass marking resembling the underbelly marking of the black widow spider. The black widow marking was briefly seen under PAV-1 before being removed at the insistence of Northrop management. The gray colored YF-23 (PAV-2) was nicknamed “Gray Ghost”.

Operational history


Both YF-23s were furnished in the configuration specified before the requirement for thrust reversing was dropped. The weapons bay was configured for weapons launch but no missiles were fired, unlike Lockheed’s demonstration aircraft. The YF-23s flew 50 times for a total of 65.2 hours. The YF-22 achieved Mach 1.58 in supercruise. The first YF-23 with P&W engines supercruised at Mach 1.43 on 18 September 1990 and the second YF-23 with GE engines reached Mach 1.6 on 29 November 1990. The flight testing demonstrated Northrop’s predicted performance values for the YF-23.

The YF-22 won the competition in April 1991. The YF-23 design was more stealthy and faster, but the YF-22 was more agile. It has been speculated in the aviation press that the YF-22 was also seen as more adaptable to the Navy’s Navalized Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF), though as it turned out the US Navy abandoned NATF a few months later.

After losing the competition, both YF-23 prototypes were transferred from Northrop to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards AFB, California. The engines were removed. NASA had no plans to perform flight tests with the airframes, but a proposal was put forward to use one of the two aircraft to study strain gauge loads calibration techniques. The possible production configuration of the F-23A has never been publicly revealed.


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May 28, 2009 Posted by | 1990s, External View, KC-135, YF-23 | , | Leave a comment

KC-10 Boom Nozzle vs. KC-135 Boom Nozzle

KC-10 Boom Nozzle. Click image to enlarge.

KC-10 Boom Nozzle. Click image to enlarge.

KC-135 Boom Nozzle. Click image to enlarge.

KC-135 Boom Nozzle. Click image to enlarge.

Shown here are the nozzles of the KC-10 and of the KC-135. The nozzle mates to the air refueling receptacle installed on the receiver aircraft. The nozzle incorporates a ball joint swivel and a universal joint. These two items provide flexibility to the nozzle assembly that is required when making contact and when the tanker and receiver are hooked up. The universal joint is used to transmit impact loads through the nozzle assembly to the shock absorber recoil assembly. The nozzle assembly is approximately two feet long.

A spring-activated check valve, referred to as the poppet valve, forms the fuel seal in the aft end of the nozzle when not in contact. The poppet valve is automatically depressed during the coupling operations by the receiver’s receptacle assembly. The spring in the poppet valve assembly, coupled with fuel pressure, exerts sufficient force on the poppet valve to close it rapidly, which results in very little fuel spillage. The resultant surges in fuel pressure are absorbed by the rubber surge boots.

The boom nozzle incorporates an induction coil at the 6 o’clock position that allows the tanker and receiver air refueling signal systems to transmit contact and disconnect signals. The induction coil also allows the two aircraft to share interphone communications.

At the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position on the nozzle are detents that the receiver’s latch toggles engage when contact is established. The detents on KC-10 nozzle can be retracted (IDS), this allows the tanker to disconnect from the receiver even if the receiver’s air refueling system malfunctions. The independent disconnect system (IDS) is an electrically controlled, pneumatically actuated system located in the nozzle assembly. Pneumatic pressure is supplied from a compressed air reservoir mounted on the telescope tube. The IDS is operated by depressing the disconnect switch through the second detent. When the system is activate, pneumatic pressure reacts the toggle latches on each side of the nozzle to a flush position. This allows the boom to be retracted from the receiver aircraft while its toggles are in the latched/extended position. The toggle latches have a holding circuit installed that retains them in the retracted position after IDS actuation, until the RESET TO READY button is pushed.

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | 2000s, KC-10, KC-135 | , , , | 2 Comments