The amount of work involved in keeping the Israeli air force’s Boeing 707 aerial refuelling aircraft in service is enormous.
This will continue until the IAF gets a replacement, which may take many more years.
The old 707s are refuelling stations for fighter aircraft when the “long arm” of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) needs to be extended and this capability, which has been used in the past, cannot lose its strength, looking at the current threats.
So it is only natural that these old aircraft are being upgraded continually and enjoy a very special maintenance plan.
One of them, operated by the “Desert Giants” squadron, was recently sent for comprehensive maintenance in the USA.
“The maintenance of these planes is very challenging,” said Major Yaniv Elkalai, head of the heavy transport department in the materiel directorate, as reported on the IAF website.
The 707s entered IAF service in 1973. The oldest, currently active airplane in the line was manufactured in 1958.
Most of the maintenance work is performed by the Bedek group of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) , but the 707s are sometimes sent for additional inspections outside Israel.
One of the problems faced is the difficulty of finding certain spare parts and tooling to make the necessary inspections.
As I have written before, the IAF has requested to get newer aerial tankers but each of the options – upgrading existing Boeing 767s or waiting for the new US Air Force KC-46A will take time. In the meantime, the aerial refuelling capability cannot be decreased even slightly, and that is why so much effort is being put in keeping the old 707s in the air and in perfect shape.