Tanking or Air to Air refuelling sometimes called a ‘controlled mid air’ is both an operational necessity for the modern fighter, but also one of the hardest tasks a pilot will ever face, made even worse in the virtual one by some aspects and easier in others. The following S.O.P is actually more of a set of guides and hints for getting your aircraft into position and staying there, it’s divided into 3 sections All Tankers, Probe and Drogue and finally Boom, with that said lets get started:
- Typically the tanker will be set up in a hold pattern, this pattern can vary in length by will on most TGW servers be either 25nm or 50nm Legs, it’s often best to try and intercept the tanker either as it starts into one of these legs (often the WP in the mission is one of the anchors)or as it’s coming towards you.
- DCS unlike real world ops only allows for basically a ‘Comms out’ tanker approach and no aide from the tanker in the rejoin, be aware of this.
- DCS’s ‘Precontact’ call is a little messed up you need to be aware of that as well, despite being told of intent to refuel drogue tankers will not extend until you reach precontact position which is about 0.1nm from the tanker behind the basket. For a boomer the boom will be down which makes stabilizing easier.
- If you have multiple aircraft wishing to refuel two can do so on a Probe and Drogue so long as the Left AC requests ready pre-contact first. Other AC should be stacked in the Quick Flow and then the Observation/Rejoin positions.
- When done tanking you’ll hear “Transfer complete, disconnect’ followed by the tanker releasing you (No dry tanking in DCS :/) at this point pilots should ease their jets down 1,000ft and back to 0.1 nm, stabilize and at this point if further tanking of the wing is required move to the observation point by shifting under and across or break away as required.
- Announce your intent to refuel on SRS if your on it.
- Do not just come barging in thinking you can have the drogue/boom, aim to join on the Left wing and check first if there are A/C tanking already. If they are talk with them (if they are not AI) and work out who need priority based on Fuel levels.
PROBE AND DROGUE
- Understand that every air-frame is different, what works for tanking in one will not necessarily work for tanking in another when it comes to Probe and Drogue operations.
- Try and reduce your movements to 1 axis at a time.
- DO NOT chase the Drogue, doing so will cause you to become fixated on it and normally start ‘Murphing’ or Pilot Induced Oscillations, if this occurs and you become unstable STOP, move back to the precontact position and start again.
- Small, smooth movements will aide you best, large ones will just get you frustrated, ease it in though some times a quick application of thrust just before you poke will aide hitting the basket, just be ready to ease off after you connect.
- Trim your aircraft out PRIOR to trying to connect, it will make your life a lot easier.
- If tanking in the F14 and having issues set your wings to ‘Bomb’ mode.
- There is no ‘magic’ throttle position, you will ALWAYS be moving the throttle.
- Once Established on the Drogue, fly ‘close form’ again don’t chase the drogue.
- Take up about 2 – 5 meters of ‘slack’ in the hose, this gives you room when your speed drops slightly to adjust before you loose contact.
Boomers in many respects have a much easier job then probe and drogue Aircraft in that they are not the ones responsible for plugging the aircraft in, they are however required to fly much closer and tighter formation. It’s important that you understand a few things when your tanking on a boomer as well.
- DO NOT CHASE THE BOOM! This is as important as not chasing the drogue, or actually even more so. The boom operator will LIFT the boom so that you can move under it, this is NORMAL you should not move up to follow it.
- Check the LIGHTS under the aircraft! In almost every AC other then the A-10C these lights are your guide to getting into the correct position. There are 2 rows of them as shown in the image below
- The right set (from when your tanking, left in the image) read F/A and have 5 positions, if the light is to the back, you need to come FORWARDS, if it’s in the middle your position is perfect, if it’s forwards you need to move AFT in relation to the tanker.
- The left set (right in the image) read D/U and again have 5 positions and arrows pointing in the direction you need to move the stick, if it’s towards the back/aft of the aircraft then you need to come ‘DOWN’, if it is towards the front of the AC then you need to come ‘up’ and if it’s in the middle then your position is again perfect.
- As you approach the tanker the probe will lift, this is NORMAL, just follow the directions on the lights.
- Once you are plugged use the lights to maintain ventral and vertical position and the tanker as a frame of reference for lateral / horizontal reference.
- The boom has some ability to fly you around, but don’t rely on it.
- The KC-135 Boom operator appears to be a failed MUDHEN driver, he doesn’t like to talk with you, he can be a bit jerky on the boom at times, and takes his time in actually doing the plug itself, be PATIENT. you can’t speed him up and trying to ‘fly’ into it socket tends to just break your jet.
- The boom is a COLLISION object, it has some leeway but it can and will damage your jet and flying it into A-10C engines will destroy both you and the KC-135.
- In the A-10C you will not have good vis on the lights, instead establish and trim on the initial boom low position, fly forwards and the boomer will lift, continue forwards slowly until he brings it down and then let him fly it into position. Once connected use the Green, Yellow and Red bands on the Drogue to maintain position.