In flight aborad the Boeing KC-767A tanker aircraft during an Air to Air Refuelling (AAR) mission.

Italian Air Force Tornado Fighter Jet

In October 2016 we had the opportunity to embark on a KC-767A tanker aircraft assigned to the Italian Air Force 14th Wing based at Pratica di Mare AFB, Rome.

The KC-767A was one of the last aircraft to enter the fleet of Italian Air Force replacing the older Boeing 707 T/T. Italy acquired four aircraft and received the first in 2011. They are all assigned to the 8th Flight Group belonging to the 14 Wing.

It was early in the morning when we arrived at the airport main gate, our flight was scheduled for late morning, but before the mission we had to carry out the stardard briefing procedures.

After the meeting with the flight crews, we went to the parking lot where two KC-767A aircraft were parked and ready to take-off for an operational mission.

The aircraft on which we boarded was configured in COMBI mode, half cabin was set for passengers and half for freight, all the personnel except the pilots and refueling operators was located at the back of the plane.

The activity included about 7 flight hours and the air refueling of many aircraft, we were lucky.

After take-off and about half an hour flight, the KC-767A reached an altitude of 18,000 feet above the Adriatic Sea where the air refueling operations began. The operator extended the flexible probes placed under the wings, all current Italian fighter jets can not be refueled from a rigid probe.

Three Tornado from the 6th Wing flanked to the left side of the tanker ready to receive fuel. The Air to Air Refueling mission lasted about 20 minutes; the fighters hooked the basket placed at the end of the probe, receiving 3,600 liters of fuel in two minutes. These procedures are performed by two operators positioned in the Remote Aerial Refueling Operator Station behind the cockpit.

The same operation was completed for three AMX jets from the 51st Wing and six Eurofighter Typhoon jets from 4th and 36th Wing.

After the refueling of the combat aircraft, another phase has begun, probably the most difficult. A second KC-767A came with the role of Receiver, in this case the refueling was made through the rear rigid probe, the operation is called Buddy-Buddy.

Compared to the old generation tankers, the KC-767A does not allow the operator a visual contact with the Receiver and he has been equipped with a helmet called HMD System (Head Mounted Display) that allows him to have a three-dimensional view of the aircraft to facilitate the procedure. In addition, the rigid probe is equipped with two cameras that transmit to the operators a very detailed images of the operation.

The two aircraft made about 13 contacts before completing the exercise and returning to the home base.


The 14th Wing operates the KC-767A tanker aircraft based on the civilian Boeing 767-200 "Extended Range" modified with the addition of the equipment for air refueling or military freight transport.
It can be set in three different configurations: combi, full-cargo and full-pax with a payload up to 25,000 kgs. In the "full-cargo" configuration it can board 19 military NATO standard pallets, in "full-pax" up to 200 people with their baggage, and in the "combi" configuration up to 100 passengers and 10 military pallets. 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 .


Since last January 12, 2016 part of the Italian Air Force heavy fleet is under the operational control of the European Air Transport Command (EATC). It is an european multinational command that from 2010 menages personnel and aircraft of the countries included in the initiative: Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.

The Italian Air Force has carried out the "transfer of authority" to EATC of 31 aircraft including C- 27J, C-130J and KC 767 belongs to the 46th Air Brigade of Pisa and the 14th Wing of Pratica di Mare. The Air Force can resume the 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; it is also allows a considerable cost saving.

 Thanks to Italian AF Press Office and the 14th Wing P.I. Officers for allowing us this reportage.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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