Air refueling has become automatic

Refueling the aircraft in the air can significantly increase the range of non-stop flights, so the military are happy to use it. This filigree procedure requires care and accuracy from the pilots and crew.

The aircraft in need of fuel is docked to the refueling rod or refueling hose, then the operator turns on the fuel pump, which pumps fuel from the flying tanker. All stages of the operation are performed manually with a constant radio exchange between aircraft crews.

Airbus decided that manual refueling was hopelessly outdated and it was time to automate this process. The refueling operator will not be expelled from the aircraft crew and will be able to control the process, as well as intervene in critical situations.

An automatic air-to-air refueling system was tested off the coast of Portugal with an Airbus A310MRTT refueling aircraft and the Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter. The speed of the tanker was 500 km / h, and the flight altitude was 7.6 kilometers.

In one hour and 15 minutes, the fighter successfully docked to the refueling bar six times and disconnected from it, simulating the full cycle of the refueling procedure. With the help of video cameras, the system monitored the position of the fighter and its refueling neck, adjusting the position and length of the refueling rod.

Airbus plans to begin installing an automatic fueling system for the A310MRTT flying tankers in 2019.


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