To the last drop of fuel – and capability

The Israeli air force is keeping its aerial refuelling capabilities in peak condition. When the main enemy is far away and is building a nuclear capability in tandem with long-range ballistic missiles, this is a must.

Last week, the air force’s Boeing 707 tanker aircraft met in the skies with its Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Barak fighters for what the force’s website described as a “special training exercise that stretched capabilities to the limit”.

During the exercise, the Boeing 707s of the “Desert Giants” squadron and the F-16s of the “First Jet” squadron flew a complicated series of manoeuvres.

“These capabilities are highly complex in terms of planning the fuel consumption and the actual execution in the air,” explains Captain David of the First Jet squadron. “The main purpose of the practice is to enhance our co-operation as part of our specialisation in aerial refuelling.”

After the aerial rendezvous,  the crews of the two squadrons met on the ground in the Ramat David air base, home of the F-16s, for a detailed debriefing.

The air force’s Boeing 707 tankers have been upgraded in recent years but there is a need for new, more advanced capabilities.

As reported by Flightglobal, the Israeli defence ministry is evaluating a plan that to lease Boeing KC-46A air tankers as replacements for the converted Boeing 707s currently in service.

The evaluation is the most recent development in the ongoing effort to give the air force a modern aerial refuelling capability.

The air force has pointed out that the current Boeing KC-135 tankers on offer from the USA will be only be considered if they include the R variants.

Until then, the US offer was based on selling three KC-135Es worth $200 million.

Israeli sources say the air force has made it clear that it prefers the R version, powered by CFM-56 engines, which are included in the excess defence articles (EDA) program. This scheme allows Washington to offer its allies different types of military hardware for free or at greatly reduced prices.

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