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The F-16 gets a Conformal Aerial Refueling Tank System (CARTS)

August 2, 2010 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Although the F-16 has been exported worldwide for 35 years now it can only be refueled in air by the handful of air forces that fly boom-equipped tankers.

F-16s Conformal Aerial Refueling Tank System (CARTS) introduced at Farnborough in 2010. [Photo by David Drais]

Now that hose and drogue refueling is mandatory for India's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft contest, four companies teamed up to develop the Conformal Air Refueling Tanker/System (CARTS). The CARTS development, led by the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, has been in the works since July 2007.

Lockheed Martin is responsible for overall system engineering, integration, aircraft modification, and project leadership; Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (India) is responsible for CARTS tank design and probe integration; Flight Refueling Limited (UK) is responsible for the telescoping fuel probe design and integration; and Israeli Aerospace Industries Limited (Israel) is responsible for technical consulting associated with the tank design.

CARTS is an F-16 refueling probe which telescopically extends and retracts from a purpose-built right-side forward Conformal Fuel Tank. The right aft section and complete left-side conformal fuel tanks require no change. The mechanically driven probe quickly extends the nozzle to its fully extended position just in front of the front pilot’s eye position.

The probe’s prototype has been demonstrated and showcased at the Farnborough Air Show and it can be used on Block 50/52 and block 60 variants.

The production model will be available in 2012 and HAL is expected to sell the product to other vendors even if the F-16 is not chosen for the MMRCA.

A similar concept (ART/S®) has been developed before by Sargent Fletcher. They modified a 370-Gallon wing tank to accept a retractable probe that permitted an F-16 aircraft to receive fuel from a Probe/Drogue-equipped tanker.

Tests were conducted with the ART/S® installed on the specially configured F-16 Variable Stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA). These test flights confirmed that the ART/S® was compatible with various aircraft computer programs.

Additional images:

Lockheed Martin, Cobham and HAL have teamed up to develop the Conformal Air Refuelling Tanker/System (CARTS) which adds a probe in the forward end of the right-hand over-wing conformal tank. [Lockheed Martin photo]

F-16s Conformal Aerial Refueling Tank System (CARTS) at Farnborough in 2010. [ photo]
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