Aerial Refueling Comparison

This video, made in November 2021 during the Checkered Flag 22-1 exercise in the Gulf of Mexico, shows the KC-10 boom operator’s perspective during refuelling of F-15, F-22, and F-16 fighters. Watch the tail surfaces of the F-22, under computer control by the stability augmentation system, moving many times per second to maintain a rock-steady platform for connecting the boom.


Brings back memories. My first Flight Surgeon unit flew O-2’s, then transitioned to A-37’s. While the Air Force uses the plug mode to refuel for most of their aircraft, the Navy - and our A-37’s - used the basket. I have had the opportunity to fly the A-37 into the basket and hold position while we took on fuel. It’s a bit of a chore.

My last command was a KC-135 unit with the upgraded RR fans, making us incredibly fuel efficient, so greatly increasing our loiter time. In the first Gulf War, we flew from Egypt to the northern race track, to refuel any fighters coming back bingo fuel. I have lain in the couch for the refueller, watching the probe, or on the couch next to him, doing the same. It is thrilling to see a fighter up close and personal, but it is absolutely awesome to refuel a Buff or Starliner (144). Those are BIG airplanes and they are CLOSE. And FYI, I don’t care how much the computer helps, you still have to hand fly those babies to hold position. It’s like formation flying - tuck in and stay there.