Military Aviation > Air Forces

The skill needed to Refuel helicopters.


In this first photo you see a KC-135R refuelling F-15s and F-16s. Difficult enough to master and a lot of training needed.

But take a look at the photo of a KC-130 P  refuelling a HH-60 Pave Hawk.
What comes immediately to mind is the latent danger of the rotary wing tangling with the fuel hose and then one big disaster. I think that a lot of care and training would have to be put into this manoeuvre

By the way, that isn't the hand of God in the sky, but it might well

Now refuelling a V-22 Osprey, looks like another matter, but "Air-to-air refuelling is an easy task, in the V-22," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Kevin Gross, one of the Osprey test pilots. "The aircraft demonstrates positive and predictable characteristics in all axes but especially in the thrust axis where the pilot's ability to control closure rates is important."

Refuelling an Agusta Westland Merlin Helicopter

The Agusta Westland and Lockheed Martin HH-71 Team successfully conducted aerial refuelling tests between a RAF AW101 Merlin Mk3 helicopter and an Italian Air Force C-130J tanker, further demonstrating the aircraft’s superior capabilities and low-risk approach for the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) requirement.

The successful fuel transfer occurred over the south of England on February 13, marking the first time a British helicopter demonstrated air-to-air refuelling capability. The AW101 and RAF test pilots plugged the helicopter’s refuelling probe to each of the tanker’s two wing station drogues — the fact that the fuel transfer occurred on the first attempts makes the demonstration even more impressive. The sorties were flown at 4,000 ft altitude, with both aircraft travelling at 127 knots.
All trial objectives were completed with multiple in-flight refuelling events successfully achieved up to the maximum Merlin Mk3 flying weight of 34,400lb.

With the VH-71 program in trouble, I wonder how much of a chance the HH-71 actually has. Even if it turns out to be superior, I wouldn't be surprised if the decision gets reversed again in favor of giving an upgrade or "all-US" alternative a better chance. The USAF will end up with more CSAR Chinooks... or does Sikorsky still have a chance?


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