New Czech Gripen pilots train for air refueling in Sweden

Czech Gripen pilots air refueling
Czech Gripen pilots train for air refueling in Sweden.

Four Czech Gripen fighters conducted the 2020 AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) Conversion Training in Sweden, from 2 to 6 November 2020.

During the activity, three Czech pilots from Caslav Air Base, CZ, were qualified to conduct air refueling, while others extended their certification.

In Sweden, Czech Gripen pilots from 211th Tactical Squadron trained to receive fuel from a Swedish C-130 Hercules tanker aircraft. Furthermore, the exercise aimed to improve the ability of Czech pilots to operate jointly with allies in an international environment and to exchange experiences with Swedish colleagues regarding the Gripen.

"The air refueling procedure is not simple and requires precision and accuracy. We must be aware that the plane flies at speeds of over 500km/h and the edge of the tanker's basket is about 20-30cm from the cockpit at the time of connection," a Gripen pilot said.

The flights took place on land and sea, operating from the F17 air base in Ronneby. Due to sea training and the large number of lakes in Sweden, all pilots must undergo dedicated training once a year. When flying over the water, Gripen pilots use special neoprene clothing, which prevents the pilot from rapid hypothermia in the event of a fall into the water.

Since air flight refuelling capability is also one of the major requirements for participation in NATO operations and other alliance exercises, trainings and re-trainings like these are important for the Czech Gripen pilots.

"Maintaining air refueling capability is one of the conditions for our full involvement in Alliance drills and operations," a participant said.

According to the Czech Air Force, the availability of tankers in the European skies has been sporadic in recent years and the use of the new Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet, which also includes the Czech Republic, is connected to the certification of the Gripen for the A330 MRTT. The mass certification is scheduled for next year and at the same time the use of the assigned hours is expected, which are at most 30 for the Gripen.

Czech Gripen pilots air refueling

Czech Gripen pilots air refueling

Czech Gripen pilots air refueling

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source: Caslav AFB
Photo Credit: Martin Král