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The Royal Air Force Is Taking Aircraft Refueling Capabilities to the Next Level

Refueling capabilities represent one of the most important factors that can influence a military air force’s combat success. It’s not just about how far aircraft can reach but also about having the necessary fuel to do that even in the most challenging conditions. The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) is working on expanding these skills for several aircraft.
RAF operators are training to perform Air Landed Aircraft Refueling missions 6 photos
Air Landed Aircraft Refueling System TrainingAir Landed Aircraft Refueling System TrainingAir Landed Aircraft Refueling System TrainingAir Landed Aircraft Refueling System TrainingAir Landed Aircraft Refueling System Training
ALARS is a new capability that RAF started developing last year. The Air Landed Aircraft Refueling System is a highly-important skill that comes into play when fuel for fighter jets can’t be delivered to the location where it’s needed via land transportation.

That can be caused by different factors. It might be too dangerous to deliver the fuel that way, it might take too long, or the location could be unreachable for ground vehicles.

This is where ALARS comes it. Unlike air-to-air refueling, this procedure involves taking fuel from a fixed-wing aircraft and transferring it into a tactical refueling facility known as a Tactical Refueling Area. This is then used to refuel fast jets and helicopters.

The idea is to establish a forward refueling point as fast as possible, in contested environments or during critical situations such as a disaster relief mission.

ALARS is typically performed at night when a large aircraft such as the C-130J Hercules is defueled from something known as “fabric 'pillow' tanks.” After transferring the fuel into the tactical fueling facility, the large, multi-engine aircraft departs. Using the fuel from these rapidly-established refueling points, fighter jets can then successfully continue their mission.

It's a complex procedure that involves planning the loading of the equipment and setting up the site, in addition to the defueling and refueling operations.

Operators from the Tactical Supply Wing (TSW) are currently participating in a two-day training at RAF Brize Norton, for the practice of ALARS. The goal is to eventually expand this capability for the A400M Atlas and C-17 Globemaster squadrons because the Hercules is getting ready to retire soon.

RAF is currently still in the process of formalizing these new refueling procedures with the Atlas and the Globemaster, and such of these training are speeding things up.

press release

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