The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is putting the Adir F-351 stealth fighter through a series of aerial refueling tests before integrating it into operational activity.
The experiments – performed from Tel-Nof Air Force Base in collaboration with the Desert Giants Squadron from Nevatim Air Force Base – will enable the stealth fighter to be refueled in the air by the ‘Re’em’ (Boeing 707) aircraft. This process qualifies the Golden Eagle Squadron’s aircrew members, who operate the F-35I, for aerial refueling missions.
The tests assess the flight quality and division of labor between the fighter jet and the fueling aircraft in both day- and night-time, while ensuring the mechanical propriety of both aircraft. The series of tests includes four stages, three of which have already been performed successfully.
“We are testing the F-35I’s capability to fly in certain conditions and behave a certain way that allows it to fly in formation with the refueling aircraft and operate with the required accuracy”, explained Maj. Shaul, a test engineer at the FTC. “We are also testing the combination of the fighter jet and the fueling aircraft. The ‘Re’em’ is a large aircraft, and its engines create whirlwinds. Thus, we need to ensure that both aircraft can operate together, aerodynamically speaking, and can follow each other’s orders”.
The main goal of the aerial refueling tests is to allow the Adir to be refueled by Israeli tankers in every speed and height permitted by the aircraft’s program block.
“Aerial refueling is important to maintaining the IAF’s long arm”, said Maj. Eran, commander of the Desert Giants Squadron’s Flight Engineer Department. “At the end of the day, fighter jets need fuel, and that is where we come in. The strategic importance of a tanker aircraft in the sky that can extend a fighter’s air time or give it a larger range of operation is crucial. Thus, the highest level of professionalism is required of us. We are still learning the F-35I’s operational capabilities and behavior”.