Actually the P-8A is only the second U.S. Navy aircraft to be equipped to receive fuel mid-flight from a USAF tanker through the flying boom system; the first being the E-6B Mercury nearly 30 years ago
A 459th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 made history last week when the aircraft was the first to operationally refuel a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, P-8A Poseidon.
“The 459th and the Air Force Reserve Command is honored and delighted to support the Navy on the P-8A project,” said Lt. Col. David Williams, 459th Operations Group deputy group commander. “We have a longstanding relationship with NAVAIR and we were excited to play a role in assisting the engineers with the development of the boom refueling capabilities of the P-8A.”
In fact, according to Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen, 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, article Air Force, Navy conduct first P-8A refueling mission, since the P-8A is the Navy’s newest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, it is important for the Poseidon being able to sustain flight for lengthy periods of time.
“The intent behind the aerial refueling capability on the P-8A is to enhance strategic mission effectiveness by extending the range and endurance of the platform,” explained U.S. Navy Cmdr. Shannon Hoover, Naval Air Forces Atlantic VX-1 Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron P-8A operational test director. “The team has completed operational tests on the integration of the AGM-84 Harpoon [missile system] for surface warfare and [multi-static active acoustic search systems] integration used in anti-submarine warfare.”
Noteworthy pilots with NAVAIR underwent rigorous training toward in-flight refueling certification (which actually is a skillset unfamiliar to many Navy aircrew members) before contacting the 459th for tanker support.
“We are coming from a community that has never had an organic tanking capability, so we are learning how to get this done,” said Hoover. “The pilots completed ground school, as well as a simulator training course, both in the E-6B Mercury and the P-8A Operational Flight Trainers. When it came time to start scheduling a tanker to take us to the next phase of training. We reached out to the 459th.”
A strategic military capability a year in the making, members of the 459th worked closely with NAVAIR, VX-20 Developmental Test Squadron and VX-1 to help bring the complexities of the refueling mission to fruition.
“We provided multiple incentive flights to engineers for research; face-to-face briefings between the chief boom, standards and evaluations technicians and Navy test pilots and engineers; coordinated communication between Navy and AFRC leadership; and transported equipment and personnel to Edwards [Air Force Base, California] for testing,” Pointed out Rollins.
Moreover the 459th and the P-8A community are looking forward to strengthening their partnership with future refuelings: in fact according to Rollins, with the successful completion of the first P-8A refueling mission, they plan to conduct day and night training missions with the Poseidon once a week.
Actually the P-8A is only the second U.S. Navy aircraft to be equipped to receive fuel mid-flight from a USAF tanker through the flying boom system; the first being the E-6B Mercury nearly 30 years ago.
Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen / U.S. Air Force
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