December 17, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Last week, the first in-flight contact of the EADS MTA Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) has successfully been performed using an F-16 combat aircraft.
An A-310 demonstrator carrying the 17m-long Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) connecting with PoAF F-16A block 15 #15102 from Esq 201 at an altitude of 27,000ft (8,230m). [Photo by EADS]
The boom, installed on an Airbus A310 used as a flight test bed, performed the contact with the receiver aircraft following the planned procedure, at an altitude of 27 000 feet. The contact represented how the ARBS will be used during a typical refuelling mission. This is the 60th test flight for the boom totaling more than 160 flight hours.
The boom operator Don Cash said that the first contacts were "like a dream". He added that "the boom performed as expected, the movement was like a fine watch, very precise at 27 000 feet. It was easy to follow the receptacle on the F-16, and the contacts were smooth and precise. I truly believe we have a very capable boom system, as demonstrated today".
Don Cash has over 8000 hours experience during 21 years as boom operator, instructor, evaluator and flight tester. Most of this time was with the USAF when he was a boomer on KC-135, KC-10 and KDC-10.
The boom is 17 meters long at full extension and allows the transfer of 2270 litre/minute of fuel. The fly-by-wire boom is controlled remotely from a console in the cockpit, where an operator uses an advanced technology 3 dimensional visual system. This gives safer operation and a reduced workload for the boom operator, and enables the tanker crew to be located together.
EADS Casa, which has suffered development delays with the proprietary boom design, hopes to break Boeing's international dominance of the air-to-air refuelling sector. The US manufacturer is offering its KC-767A design to meet the KC-X requirement – a decision on which is expected from early 2008 – and made its first dry boom contacts with a Boeing B-52 bomber last Januar