Losses and Aviation Safety

USAF KC-135 loses air-refueling hose over Finland while refueling a Finnish F/A-18. And it’s not the first time.

The fall of the KC-135 Stratotanker hose did not cause any damage to the equipment or personnel.

On Mar. 16, 2021 the hose of a US Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker air-refueling aircraft came loose and fell off the ground southeast of Kihniö, Finland. The fall did not cause any damage to the equipment or personnel.

The tanker was involved in Finnish and US Air Forces joint Exercise Baltic Trident which started on Mar. 16. A technical malfuctions seems to be the cause behind the fall of the KC-135 hose. However the US Air Force (USAF) confirmed to Lentoposti.fi that the hose was not lost after a contact made by an Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet.

The air refueling hose is attached to the pod in the wing of the tanker. A basket is attached at the end of the hose.

While the Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornets use the so called “Probe and Drogue” method to refuel, the USAF aircraft, such as the F-15s participating in Exercise Baltic Trident use a receptacle at the end of a telescoping boom to transfer fuel during mid-air refueling.

The KC-135 was participating in the exercise along with USAF 48th Fighter Wing F-15 and Finnish Air Force F/A-18 multirole fighters.

According to Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Working Group, the drill flight operations were mainly directed to the training area between Tampere, Seinäjoki, Kokkola, Oulu and Jyväskylä.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. KC-135R Stratotanker 100th ARW, 351st ARS, 62-3551

The exercise continued normally despite the mishap and the following day another USAF KC-135 flew over Finland.

Noteworthy this is not the first time that a USAF KC-135 loses an air-refueling hose over Finland: in 2016 in fact a Stratotanker hose was lost after a failed refueling attempt conducted by a Finnish Hornet.

Another air-refueling hose was lost over Finland during an exercise in 2015 also while refueling an F/A-18. That hose was found in the terrain about a year later.

As we have previously explained, the probe of the receiver can break during air refueling too. A “broken probe” is not an uncommon incident. A so-called “broken probe” (actually a broken fuel valve) may happen if poor flying technique is used by the receiver pilot, or in turbulence. Sometimes the valve is retained in the tanker drogue and prevents further refueling from that drogue until removed during ground maintenance.

The following unusual photo shows a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet featuring kill markings for broken refueling probes.

Photo credit: Kuva Ilmavoimat and Royal Canadian Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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