Air to Air Refuelling (AAR): all details on the fascinating aviation technology.

Italian Air Force Tornado Fighter Jet

Have you ever heard about Air to Air Refuelling (AAR)? Some people knows technical details on this subject, others only the most superficial aspect. Our article is dedicated to all those who have always wanted to know more.

What the air-refueling is?

It is an operation that allows to transfer fuel from a tanker to another aircraft (said receiver) while both are in flight.
Because of the tank small size and the minimum fuel charge during takeoff, the combat aircraft can't benefits of several consecutive hours of flight autonomy. This is why the fuel is completed during flight.

Which systems of refueling are used for?

There are two main systems: a rigid telescopic probe placed on tanker queue, or flexible probes placed under the two wingtips in the back of the fuselage. The use of each system depends to the type of apparatus which is available in the receiver aircraft.

Are speed and altitude changing during the refueling operations?

No, the flight of the tanker must be straight, without changing altitude, at a constant speed. This facilitate the positioning of the receiver.
Sometimes this operation can be complicated from wing vortices generated from tanker or turbulence.

How the refueling probes working?

The rigid one is controlled by an operator that try to position it into a nozzle placed on the aircraft's receiver back.
In modern systems, the operator wears a viewer device that permit to calculate the frontal and lateral distance from the Receiver.
With the flexible probe with basket, instead, the operation is carried out directly from the tanker pilot that activates the pump once the connection is established.

What is the ItAF Wing in charge of air refueling?

Is the 14th Wing, based in Rome, to Pratica di Mare military airport.
The Wing has the task of conducting missions in support of the supply industry in flight, flight inspection and training pilots and crews with the KC-767A aircraft and P-180 "Avanti".
To the 14th Wing depend on 8th and 71st Flight Squadron, a center crew and a group aircraft efficiency training.

Some national missions?

Since its establishment until today has taken part in several missions: flood Polesine, Irpinia earthquake, flood of Sarno, the earthquake in Umbria, Exercise "Dress Reherfal" exercise "Star Vega 2013" exercise "Apex India 2014 and 2015" exercise "Toxic Trip 2015" as well as numerous operations abroad.

He also received the following honors:
- War Flag for transactions carried out on the Mediterranean sky, Egypt and Marmarica.
- Silver Medal of Military Valour in memory of the many fallen men
- Silver Medal of aeronautics value for ISAF operations in Afghanistan

What is the aircraft used for the AAR?

The 14th Wing operates with KC-767A aircraft which comes from commercial aircraft Boeing 767-200 "Extended Range". The KC-767 Tanker/Transport ensures high flight range and load coupled to the air refueling capabilities, such as "receiver" or "tanker". The aircraft can be fitted in three different configurations (combi, full-cargo and full-pax) with a payload of up to 25,000 kg. In the "full-cargo" configuration you can board 19 military NATO standard pallets, in "full-pax" one up to 200 people with their baggage, and in the "combi" configuration up to 100 passengers and 10 military pallets.
Regarding the refueling capability, it can provide up to 4.91 liters per minute with rigid rod (boom), up to 2,727 liters per minute with the semirigid rod/central drum and up to 1,818 liters per minute with the same in the wing tips .

The 14th Wing belongs now to EATC: what is it?

Since last January 12 a large part of the ItAF transport aircraft, air refueling and medical evacuation fleet is under the operational control of the European Air Transport Command (EATC).
This is the multinational command that from 2010 menages personnel and aircrafts of the countries that participate in this European initiative: Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.
The Italian Air Force has carried out the "transfer of authority" to EATC of 31 aircraft between C- 27J, C-130J and KC 767 belongs to the 46th Air Brigade of Pisa and the 14th Wing of Pratica di Mare with the possibility of regain control of the aircraft for national needs.
This operation has the aim to improve and optimize the management of the resources available thanks to the standardization of procedures and the use of a common fleet more extensive than those of the individual countries; this also allows considerable savings on the financial front.

 Thanks for this opportunity granted by the ItAF Press Office and the support and coordination of the P.I. officers of the 14th Wing that were able to document with pictures the AAR activites.

Text and Pics: Matteo Sanzani

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