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Discussion: Why Pakistan’s F-16s do not have in-flight refuelling support ....

Discussion in 'Air Warfare' started by Zain Malik, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. Zain Malik

    Zain Malik FULL MEMBER

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    [​IMG]

    A Pakistan Air Force F-16B refueling mid-air with the support of a USAF KC-135 during Red Flag 2010.

    Discussion: Why Pakistan’s F-16s do not have in-flight refuelling support


    Foreword: This is not a news story, but a piece for the purpose of discussion. The details offered in this article as well as in subsequent parts are not authoritative pieces of information, but rather, perspectives on the Pakistan Air Force’s options in terms of in-flight refuelling aircraft.

    For the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), the F-16 serves as both its current qualitative driver (in terms of bringing new air warfare technologies to the fleet) and mainstay multi-role fighter.

    Besides serving in the front as the PAF’s principal long-range air defence asset (which is gradually being supplemented with the JF-17), the F-16 has also been a major counterinsurgency (COIN) strike asset in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

    With a total of 74 F-16s (i.e. 18 F-16C/D Block-52+, 45 F-16A/B Block-15 Mid-Life Update, and 13 F-16A/B Block-15 Air Defence Fighter), it is interesting to observe that the PAF does not possess an in-flight refuelling tanker that could support this key force. In fact, when the PAF’s F-16s are deployed overseas to participate in exercises, such as Red Flag and Anatolian Eagle, they require in-flight refuelling support from U.S. Air Force (USAF) KC-135 Stratotankers.

    If one is wondering why the PAF’s IL-78 tankers cannot be used to support the F-16s, the answer lies in the fact that the F-16s utilize a different aerial refueling system than what the IL-78 is configured to use. The IL-78s refuel using the hose-and-drogue method, which is designed with a trailing hose with a receiver basket at its end, which connects to an external refuelling probe on the receiver.

    The PAF’s Mirages – and in the short-term JF-17s – refuel using the hose-and-drogue method. On the other hand, the F-16s require a refuelling boom, which connects to a fuel receiver system in the fuselage. The main benefit behind boom-refuelling is the higher rate of fuel transfer. However, only U.S. designs utilize this method, the rest of the world – from the Western Europeans to the Chinese – depend on hose-and-drogue, which is simpler to integrate onto receiver as well as tanker platforms.

    When the PAF began pursuing an in-flight tanker, it was fully aware of the F-16’s specific needs. It was for this reason that the PAF had originally hoped to secure the Airbus A310 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) system for its fleet. The Airbus A310 MRTT was introduced in the early 2000s for the German and Canadian forces. Airbus Defence and Space (then known as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company or EADS) utilized existing A310s for the MRTT modification, which imbued the airliner with not only a boom refueling probe but also wing-mounted hose-and-drogue probes.

    The A310 MRTT was a comparatively low-cost option (considering the offering was primarily modification and added subsystems for surplus A310 airliners). Unfortunately for the PAF, Airbus had pivoted away from A310 MRTT and instead began to exclusively push the A330 MRTT.

    While based on the Airbus A330 airliner, the A330 MRTT is offered as a new-built solution. In other words, the airframe is built with in-flight refuelling and military airlift tasks from the onset. While a very capable platform, the A330 MRTT was – and still is – a prohibitively expensive system for the PAF. The complete approximate unit cost of each A330 MRTT sits at $250 million U.S.

    The PAF could have sought surplus KC-135s from the U.S., but shaky defence ties, as well as the prospect of dealing with heavily aged airframes, would have put a stop on that road. In effect, the PAF’s F-16s have been left with no in-flight refuelling support, which in some respects caps the fighter from achieving better operational potential. Without in-flight refuelling, the F-16s would have to depend on external fuel pods in order to undertake extended-range or long-endurance flights. These pods force a cost in having fewer available hardpoints for air-to-air and/or air-to-surface munitions.

    The PAF’s plans for addressing this issue are not known. In fact, it simply may not pursue a solution at all. However, it may be worth – for discussion’s sake – exploring the idea of a new dual-configuration tanker (i.e. one capable of hose-and-drogue and boom-refuelling). The upfront cost of the A330 MRTT is certainly high, but other considerations ought to be made as well.

    First, the A330 MRTT would not be restricted to just supporting the F-16s, it can support the PAF’s hose-and-drogue assets, such as the JF-17, as well.

    Second, the A330 MRTT airframe is that of a commercially popular airliner, so it is an inherently fuel-efficient design. In fact, the A330 is powered by two turbofan engines (in contrast to the IL-78’s four), so the overall fuel demand of the A330 MRTT should be less than that of the IL-78. The airline aspect could also render the availability of spare parts and maintenance support a relatively low-cost effort.

    Third, the A330 MRTT can carry passengers or cargo in addition to fuel. In other words, if the PAF deploy a fighter unit for exercises, a lone MRTT unit could (potentially) be sent to provide tanker support as well as serve as a general transport. Granted, this is conditional on a number of factors, such as the location of the exercise (e.g. a single MRTT to provide complete support for Red Flag may be unrealistic).

    Granted, the PAF’s scope of acquisitions is not wide at this time. In fact, unless the PAF opts to configure its next-generation fighter for boom refuelling, the long-term utility of pursuing a boom-type tanker will diminish as F-16s are retired. Unless there is an infusion of additional – and fresher – F-16s, the necessity for the A330 MRTT for the sake of its boom-refuelling capability is limited. If the PAF is to consider this system, it would be on the basis of fuel efficiency, versatility, and maintenance costs (though this would require one to assume the IL-78 is costlier to maintain). Furthermore, the A330 MRTT is a platform the PAF could operate for many decades, which may help offset the high upfront price.
     
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  2. Hamartia Antidote

    Hamartia Antidote ELITE MEMBER

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    The US uses hose and drogue for Navy planes because we can't launch a big tanker from a ship. The Air Force uses the faster boom method (this is especially needed for bombers).

    F16's have been refitted with probes.
     
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  3. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    There are two simple solutions which make F-16 directly compatible with probe-and-drogue refuelling systems:

    A) Traditional fuel tank with integral probe i.e. the Sargent Fletcher Aerial Refueling Tank/System (ART/S) pod
    [​IMG]
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    B) Conformal dorsal fuel tanks with integral probe (preferable, since it leaves hardpoints free) i.e. the Conformal Air Refuelling Tanker/System (CARTS)

    [​IMG]

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    Both should be available from COBHAM PLC (which gobbled up Sargent Fletcher)
    http://www.cobham.com/mission-systems/air-to-air-refuelling/

    IL-78 refuelling system is compatible with Western jets, specifically Mirage III/IV/2000
    [​IMG]

    Pic's or source ref's pls!
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
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  4. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    [​IMG]
    http://toocatsoriginals.tumblr.com/post/94070620239/sargent-fletcher-aerial-refueling-tank-arts
    https://airrefuelingarchive.wordpress.com/2009/05/12/sargent-fletcher-arts-pod-f-16-vista/
    2 versions: http://www.mindspring.com/~katmcg/sf/products/artspod/apback.html

    F-16s Conformal Aerial Refueling Tank System (CARTS) at Farnborough in 2010.
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    http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album03/CARTS-farnborough

    JF-17: 2 types of probe, depending on block. Denel, formerly Atlas Aviation, has previously assisted with outfitting some Pakistani Mirage III fighters with refuelling probes.
    http://www.janes.com/article/57508/jf-17-block-ii-advances-with-new-refuelling-probe

    Mirage III/IV probe
    In 2009 the Mirage IIIEAs started to be equipped with an in-flight refuelling probe, 90-583 serving as the prototype. PAF acquired four Ilyushin Il-78P Midas tanker aircraft from Ukraine and plan to equip 30 Mirages for in-flight refuelling .
    http://www.adf-serials.com.au/3a3-Pakistan.htm
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
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  5. Shabi1

    Shabi1 FULL MEMBER

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    Isn't the CARTs system developed by an Israeli company, if so PAF getting it seems unlikely.
     
  6. member.exe

    member.exe SENIOR MEMBER

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    This looks like a solution for an experimental aircraft. I mean if a plane on a mission drops these it loses it air refuelling capability. Or is it conformal?
     
  7. Imran Khan

    Imran Khan PDF VETERAN

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    we can get via turkey as we get earlier some tech
     
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  8. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    IL-78 uses 3 UPAZ-1 hose and drogue refueling pods[​IMG]

    Besides IL-78, PAF operates C-130s. These could readily be converted to KC-130s and the 6 C-130Hs in particular

    The refueling missions are usually conducted within a 500-nautical-mile (930 km) operating radius. For its refueling role the KC-130 aircraft has two wing-mounted hose and drogue refueling pods. The KC-130 is also equipped with a removable 3.600 gallon (136.26 hectoliter) stainless steel fuel tank that is carried inside the cargo compartment providing additional fuel when required. The two wing-mounted hose and drogue refueling pods each transfer up to 300 gallons per minute (1135.5 liters per minute) to two aircraft simultaneously allowing for rapid cycle times of multiple-receiver aircraft formations (a typical tanker formation of four aircraft in less than 30 minutes).

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/kc-130.htm

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    Pages 7 and 8: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/conte...ons/Wed_1115-C-130_Retrofit_Kit_Offerings.pdf
    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/malaysia-signs-up-for-two-c-130-tanker-conversions-24419/
     
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  9. Shabi1

    Shabi1 FULL MEMBER

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    I think not a priority for PAF F-16s at the moment else according to Wikipedia DC-10 and B747 can be converted for Boom refueling. PAF has other priority purchases and inductions pending.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tanker_aircraft
     
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  10. Hamartia Antidote

    Hamartia Antidote ELITE MEMBER

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    I was referring to CARTS for the F16.

    The F35 for the Air Force uses boom

    [​IMG]

    The F35 for the Navy/Marines uses hose and drogue.
    [​IMG]
     
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  11. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Do these strike you as experimental aircraft?
    [​IMG]

    It is a system that was developed by Sargent Fletcher. I'm not sure it has generated commercial interest or sales. CLEARLY, it is NOT conformal, as it is built into a droptank.

    Underwing fuel tanks aren't necessary meant as 'drop tanks', although they are designed to be jettonisable in case of emergency or when entering a dogfight. There are many types of missions that do not involve dogfighting at all. IN those cases, the tanks are brought home empty. They're only dropped in an emergency or in combat situations when the aircraft needs the extra maneuverability or speed.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    http://defense-update.com/products/f/f-16-fuel.htm

    Nonetheless, CFTs impose less of a drag penalty
    http://defense-update.com/products/c/F-16-CFT.htm
     
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  12. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    PAF has none of these. It does have two Boeing 707 transports which could be converted to hose and drogue, making it dual capable. Likewise it's single Airbus A310, which could be an MRTT as well (see German Luftwaffe), which could (but currently doesn't actually) involve a boom. PIA operates some more A310 and some A330. One could fit these 'for but not with' (and store boom / h&d pods) to have reserve wartime capacity.

    Virtually all of the above have been purpose built, rather than converted. Exception being KC-10 Netherlands, Airbus A310 (not 330) MRTT Germany.
     
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  13. dani958

    dani958 BANNED

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    also every usa plane u can see some israel sub system
     
  14. Penguin

    Penguin PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Dani, f... off!
     
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  15. Bilal Khan 777

    Bilal Khan 777 PROFESSIONAL

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    My two cents. CARTs would have some stability issues. The CFT IFR probe seems to have some promise, but did not get world wide appeal. For PK, they would have to get rid of the UPAZ 1 and upgrade to FRL type Pod from UK first on IL78, and evaluate CFT based IFR probe.
     
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