The Engineering Behind Refueling a Fighter Jet in Mid-Air

The procedure could result in a potentially fatal collision.
Loukia Papadopoulos

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Aerial refueling consists of transferring fuel from a tanker to a receiver midair. It might seem very scary and unpredictable but it is quite useful in allowing jets to fly longer and further. However, it is a complicated procedure that must be undertaken with a lot of caution and care.

This is because the tanker has a relatively small area to safely refuel an aircraft resulting in two risks: going too far and breaching the area.
Breaching the area is by far the most dangerous one as it could damage not just the refueling equipment, but the aircraft themselves resulting in a fatal collision.

This is no exaggeration but very much fact as in 1966, aerial refueling caused a collision known as the Palomares incident that resulted in both planes being destroyed, seven out of the 11 total crew members losing their lives, and the receiver aircraft’s radioactive payload contaminating the crash site.

What precautions do militaries take to make these missions safer? How many methods of aerial refueling exist? Which are the safest and which are the riskiest? How can pilots tackle these processes with more safety and care? We answer all these questions and bring you footage of these risky maneuvers you do not want to miss.

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