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Author Topic: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?  (Read 12877 times)

Offline AVIATOR

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Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« on: July 18, 2009, 08:33:04 AM »
One thing that stood out to me after reading the post ' Naval air operations in Afghanistan" was the reliance placed upon aerial refuelling tankers by a modern air force.
In the article, it talks of many tankers waiting around on the fringes of an operations area and the need for fighter bombers to refuel every two hours.
Now to me, this is all very well if you have total air superiority like in Iraq or in anti terrorist wars like Afghanistan or even small police action wars like Bosnia. But what if it comes to a real shooting war against a powerful adversary like say Russia or China? The most vulnerable aircraft would be the tankers.
Any enemy would know that to take out the tankers would mean to take out most of the fighter/bomber opposition.
I therefore put aerial refuelling tanker aircraft in the same category as aircraft carriers. They are peace time weapons restricted to small wars and police actions..

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2009, 03:24:31 AM »
Combat Air Patrols can guard large piece of sky, together with AWACS, they can still ensure air dominance up until a certain range from enemy installations, then you can safely use tankers behind them. Moscow or Beijng aren't that far from friendly, well defended airspace. 2 hrs of fuel will take you a long way, and then they won't be running empty, there's a lot of reserve. Forward operating bases will be more important in such conflicts for close air support as well as carriers, because you can't have jets on station all the time. You won't have fighter bombers in the skies all the time like in Iraq/Afghanistan, the fighterbomber will fly in and out. But before it goes in and on return leg, once in safe airspace, they still need the tanker. Taking off with a full load takes a lot of fuel, so once up they need to refuel to extend their range to the target and be able to make it back, even if they have to burn up a lot fuel to do evasive actions.

Unless you want to call everything peace time weapons, except ICBMs and nuclear submarines then no, they are not peace time capabilities and would still serve a major role in bigger wars. If Hitler had tankers, he would have bombed the US. And also the carriers, they don't have to be close to the coast and are well defended. USN also uses the Super Hornet as tanker, which can accompany the strike package up until a certain point and return when it has refuelled them. Su-24 and Tornado (Luftwaffe) also do buddy refueling.

Also, they would be needed to extend the range of the strategic bombers across the globe, so it can fly from Russia to close enough to the US, or from US to China. So those real 'wartime weapons' could still use tankers.

And your picture shows another point, when you have deployed forces, you need to keep the logistics line in shape, ships are slow. Strategic transports need to be refuelled as well to extend their range.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2009, 03:29:04 AM by Webmaster »
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Offline SukhoiLover

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2009, 03:54:02 AM »
I wouldn´t say better Webby.

Just think about the conflicts were tankers were used and in which the airspace wasn´t all that friendly, and you´ll see that they are far from being peace time equipment.

I would like to add just another thing to what Webby said, the Su-33 and the new Su-35 can also use special equipment to do buddy refueling.
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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2009, 03:59:40 AM »
OK there are two points you make that I will answer and undaunted Aviator presses on with his limited knowledge.

Firstly Russia is as you say almost friendly but Iran and Korea and the latent war with them by the West aren't.
If  the West has to take out these threats to world peace, guess whose anti aircraft weaponry they will have to dodge. Russia arming our enemies makes Russia an enemy by proxy.
Almost friendly China is another matter. They are a potential enemy of the future to all of us including Australia. China wants more than it has and intends to get it or try to. There is also the real Taiwan factor that America intends to fight over.

Secondly you miss my point. Of course America will go to war with tankers. Of course they would go to war with aircraft carriers. The war planning would revolve around these two assets plus one other that isn't as vulnerable.[Nuclear submarines]
But both the former will be blasted out of the water and sky in a modern shooting war.
When I say that they are peacetime weapons it is a figure of speech. Only in peacetime are they completely safe because the enemies of the moment don't have the capabilities to do anything about them.

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2009, 04:26:14 PM »
About your first reply, my point was not that they are friendly now, my point is that you can strike them from nearby locations keeping the tankers in friendly airspace, out of harms way. Yes, they'll be vulnerable assets, but what isn't in a total war with a modern, well-equipped enemy. I wouldn't call them peace time weapons.

And for the second, okay got it, but you said they were thus restricted to small wars and police actions. That isn't true. But I see now you mean their safety and thus availability is not as unrestricted in war as in small wars and police actions. But I wouldn't use the term peace time weapons for that reason, to me those are weapons/capabilities that really serve no purpose or have little to no effect in a real war, for example those sensor equipped Cessna's, non-lethal weapons, etc. Otherwise you can call almost every that.

Actually you can even call the nuclear capabilities peace time weapons, as they have their greatest value in peace time serving as a deterrence...
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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2009, 01:08:25 AM »
I wouldn´t say better Webby.

Just think about the conflicts were tankers were used and in which the airspace wasn´t all that friendly, and you´ll see that they are far from being peace time equipment.

I would like to add just another thing to what Webby said, the Su-33 and the new Su-35 can also use special equipment to do buddy refueling.

There haven't been any conflicts in history where tankers have really been in harm's way that I know of Suck. They have always been able to protect them with massive aerial superiority like Viet Nam for instance.
Even in the Falklands the Argentinian AF had no hope of getting anywhere near the RAF'S tankers.

But your observation that Sus can aerial refuel only adds to the argument that in a real shooting war, the tankers are vulnerable as in police actions and terrorist wars there aren't any Sus.

Your second point about enemy aircraft like the Su-35s made me think of something else.
I wonder if there will ever be a scenerio where enemy aircraft will refuel from an enemy with the threat of shooting down a tanker unless they complied.


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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2009, 02:19:22 AM »
The Western systems are different from the Russian, even if that USAF tanker is fitted with a drogue and not boom, the probe is different. So, you need a scenario where the systems are compatible, not unlikely with countries supplying to states which aren't friendly towards eachother. I don't think it can get close, or that pilots would make such a decision, they can better RTB or ditch than trying to hook up with an enemy tanker, LOL.
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Offline SukhoiLover

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2009, 02:48:53 PM »
That one made me laugh ( in the good sense ).

Imagine an F-18, for exemple, desperate for fuel trying to hook up on a Su-33 surrounded by escorts.

-WTF!?!?!?

I guess thats what the Su´s pilots would say.
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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2009, 11:16:40 PM »
First case in history of Aerial rape comes to mind.

Offline Gripen

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2009, 12:14:47 AM »
Have you guys seen the movie stealth?


In it they have a refuelling..thing flying around in circles continuosly giving fuel to the planes that plug into it.

Is making on of those things possible and could it be used to refuel like a 747 or A380? A big civilian aircraft?

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2009, 12:34:31 AM »
Haven't seen the movie gripe, but I wonder how long it will be before they refuel airliners. They say it takes 20% of the aircraft's fuel load to land and take off to re fuel.
By the way, they actually re fuel the Boeing 747 Air Force 1.

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Re: Are aerial refuelling tankers peace time aircraft?
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2009, 05:36:24 AM »
I know that, but its not exactly a civilian plane.

 



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