Inflight refueling has been a main aspect of supporting superiority in the skies and has evolved greatly since its conception. It relies on pilot skill and systems to deliver fuel to military aircraft in extreme conditions in hostile environments. As the role of manned aircraft decreases and unmanned increases the need to refuel inflight is becoming more important for unmanned vehicles. There are instances where very long operations have been required and in 1982 the initial bombing of the Falklands airport involved 11 refueling tankers to support the lead aircraft. Such requirements are extreme and current unmanned aircraft will operate in different environments. Their significantly lower costs to design, develop and operate make them viable for higher risk sorties. To maximize their roles they need to be operational for extended periods. Against this backdrop there is the problem that when no local airfield is available these increased distances will take significantly longer times to arrive and deploy.
Last date updated on July, 2014