IAF: Go Long – Practicing Aerial Refueling on the Hercules

This week, the two biggest transport planes in the IAF met for a complex training session: aerial refueling for heavy planes. During the training session, the Hercules C-130 aircrews and the Boeing 707 aircrews practiced this complex capability that constitutes an essential part of the strategic arm of the IDF
Shani Pomes
The Hercules C-130 plane and the Boeing 707 are both a part of the Heavyweight Transport division of the IAF, and are both based in Nevitim, located in the Negev. The two planes have a similar mission: heavyweight transport, humanitarian assistance beyond the sea and the aerial refueling of other aircrafts. This week, the two planes met for a challenging joint-exercise centered on the aerial refueling of the Hercules C-130 by the Boeing 707. „There are missions that both Hercules C-130 planes and Boeing 707 planes perform, but we don’t perform them together. The main meeting between the two planes occurs in the air during refueling: when the Boeing 707 refuels the Hercules C-130”, explains Major Ronen, Deputy Commander of the „Desert Giants” squadron, which operations the Boeing 707 planes.

As mentioned, both planes possess refueling capabilities: Hercules C-130 planes refuel Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion planes in midair, while Boeing 707 planes are responsible for refueling both IAF combat planes and Hercules C-130 planes in midair. During the training sessions that was held, the Boeing 707 aircrews and the Hercules C-130 aircrews met on the ground for joint briefings and debriefings, and practiced refueling capabilities in the air, as the aircrews of each squadron watched the cockpit of their counterpart. „By sitting in the cockpit of the other side, you can see how things look on their end and it’s very helpful professionally „, explained Captain Yaniv of the Hercules squadron, „The Yellow Birds”, which is being refueled this time around. „Even during meetings on the ground, we talk about the flights in order to understand the other side better”.

Connected to the Mission
The heart of the training session, as well as aerial refueling at the moment of truth, is a meeting in the air and the connection between the planes conducted by the refueling „boom”. To this end, Boeing 707 aircrews and Hercules C-130 aircrews determine a point in the air where they will meet and a Boeing 707 refueling pipe will be connected to the Hercules plane and will fill it with fuel. A smooth, professional refueling is the result of many exercises performed by aircrews from both squadrons. „The most critical moment in this flight, as far as the Boeing 707 is concerned, is the insertion of the 'boom’. The Hercules flies in coordination with us and the 'boomer’, the aircrew member who operates the refueling pipe and needs to be focused and connect the 'boom’ to the Hercules plane with caution so that the [pipe] won’t damage it”, explained Major Ronen. „At the end of the day, the main mission of our squadron is aerial refueling and as far as we are concerned, this refueling is first and foremost cooperation. We want to understand what is important to the other side, where we can help, and where not to interfere, and this is one of the reasons why we are holding this [training session].”


Source / Author: IAF / Shani Pomes