In the world of today and especially for the air forces of the world’s militaries, the aerial refueling aircraft’s purpose is indispensable. It is a strategic asset of any military as this act for them as an airborne station. These airborne stations are capable of prolonging the range of the fighter jets as well as the reconnaissance aircraft. By performing air refueling, these aircraft can prolong their time to do the job.
Today for our readers, we have gathered a list of the Top 10 aerial refueling aircraft in the world
The first on our list is the KC-10 Extender which is a military tanker as well as transport variant aircraft which is based on the design of Boeing DC-10. The aircraft not only serves the purpose of being a conventional air refueling tanker but also that of a receiver aircraft. The aircraft has the maximum capacity of carrying 160.2 tons of fuel along with 76.5 tons of cargo and 75 personnel.
The Extender comes with a total of 6 fuel tanks. Three of them are main wing fuel tanks while the other 3 are the large fuel tanks that are located beneath the cargo floor. The aircraft is able to perform air refueling via following.
- advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose
- drogue centreline refueling system
The operator of the refueling boom controls the mission by use of a digital fly-by-wire system.
The aircraft has the ability to transfer the fuel at the following rates.
- 4,180L/min via an aerial refueling boom
- 1,786L/min via a hose and drogue refueling system
Airbus A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT)
The Airbus A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is a modernized and modified version of the passenger aircraft of the same model. The aircraft has the total capacity to hold nearly 111 tons of fuel, 300 personnel or carry an internal cargo of 45 tons. The aircraft is currently in use of following air forces.
- Royal Australian Air Force
- UAE Air Force
- Royal Air Force
- Royal Saudi Air Force
The aircraft is equipped with the Airbus Military Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) which results in the fuel to be transferred faster. The aircraft is able to allow the fuel transfer for the following aircraft.
- F-16 Fighting Falcon
- F-35A Lightning II
Boeing KC-46A Tanker
The Boeing KC-46A Tanker is a multirole tanker which is based on the design of th3e Boeing 767 commercial aircraft.
The aircraft has the ability to refuel all of the fixed-wing aircraft using its following features.
- fly-by-wire boom
- centreline and wing-mounted hose
- drogue systems
The aircraft is equipped to hold in a total fuel quantity of 96.2 tons.
The aircraft is able to transfer the fuel at the following rates.
- refueling boom transfers at rate of 4,542L/min
- wing air refueling pods and centreline drogue system transfers at a rate of 1,514L/min
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is one of the oldest air-refueling aircraft to be in USAF’s service. The aircraft was delivered to Castle Air Force base back in 1957. The aircraft since then has carried out nearly 813,000 of the aerial refueling missions for the fighter jets during the Vietnam War.
The aircraft is equipped to carry a total of 90.71 tons of fuel and it delivers the fuel via two of the following systems.
- flying boom
- a special shuttlecock-shaped drogue with probes
Ilyushin Il-78: Midas
The Ilyushin Il-78 whose NATO designation is Midas is the air refueling aircraft that has been made after making modifications to the Il-76MD military transport aircraft. The aircraft is among the very few air fuelling aircraft that at one time can easily refuel 3 aircraft simultaneously.
The aircraft has the maximum capacity of carrying nearly 85.7 tons of fuel in both its wing tanks as well as its fuselage tanks. In times of need, the aircraft can be easily modified to become a transport aircraft which can easily accommodate the transport of troops and pieces of equipment.
The aircraft makes use of the 3 UPAZ unified refueling pods for refueling 3 aircraft simultaneously.
Boeing KC-767 International Tanker
The Boeing KC-767 International Tanker Is a modern-day air refueling aircraft that is equipped to perform following missions.
- air-to-air refueling
- cargo/passenger transport
- medical evacuation missions
The aircraft as its name suggests holds the interoperability for the NATO and the European countries. The aircraft has the maximum fuel carrying capacity of 73.02 tons and the fuel is transferred through the following systems.
- boom system
- wing air refueling pods
- centreline hose drum unit
The Airbus A400M is both a transport and a tanker aircraft that provides the armed forces to have the cost-effective air refueling. The aircraft is the only tanker that is able to refuel any aircraft that comes with a refueling probe.
The aircraft has the total capacity to carry 50.5 tons of fuel. It can also be equipped to have 2 additional cargo hold tanks which can also carry 5.7 tons of fuel in each of them. The aircraft has the capability to refuel the other aircraft via following systems and their respective fuel rate.
- two hose and drogue under-wing refueling pods at a flow rate of 1,500L/min
- center-line fuselage refueling unit at a flow rate of 2,250L/min
A310 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT)
The A310 Multi Role Tanker Transport is an aircraft that is the modified version of the Airbus A310 jet airliner. The aircraft has the ability to not only refuel but also transport and is currently in use of German Air Force as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The aircraft has the total fuel carrying capacity of 42 tons and transfers fuel through following systems with a flow rate of 1,500 liters per minute.
- under-wing hose
- drogue refueling pods
The KC-130J Tanker aircraft was developed by the famed aircraft manufacturer and designer Lockheed Martin. The purpose was to build an air tanker that could refuel not only tactical aircraft but also the helicopters. The aircraft also has the ability to perform ground refueling. The aircraft in its service with USAF has completed nearly 20000 flight hours in Iraq.
The aircraft has the maximum capacity to carry 27.83 tons of fuel and can refuel 2 aircraft simultaneously at a flow rate of 1,135.6 liters per minute.
The Embraer KC-390 is the military transport and tanker aircraft that was manufactured to serve the Brazilian Air Force. The aircraft has the total fuel carrying capacity of 23.4 tons.