Automatic air-to-air refuelling (AAR) contacts with a fighter aircraft from a tanker’s refuelling boom, has been successfully demonstrated for the first time in the world in a demonstration performed by Airbus Defence and Space.
Six automatic contacts were performed by Airbus’ A310 MRTT company development aircraft with a F-16 of the Portuguese Air Force in a demonstration of a technique.
David Piatti, Airbus Test ARO, or “boomer”, on the tanker, said: “The most important thing was that the system could track the receptacle. It was very satisfying because it worked perfectly and we could perform the contacts with the automation switched on as planned. It will certainly reduce workload, especially in degraded weather conditions.”
The F-16 pilot, known by his callsign “Prime”, said: “The test mission was pretty uneventful and accomplished with no unexpected issues – which is a good sign. From the moment that the boomer accepted the contact the boom was immediately in the correct spot. For the contact itself, it was very precise and expeditious. You can notice the difference – the less that you feel in the cockpit then the more precise you know the tracking is.”
The system requires no additional equipment on the receiver andcould be introduced on the current production A330 MRTT as soon as 2019.
It is intended to reduce boom operator workload, improve safety, and optimise the rate of AAR in operational conditions to maximise combat efficiency.