An aircrew from the U.S. Air Force 22nd Airlift Squadron conducted a reverse flow air refueling training with a C-5M Super Galaxy and a KC-10 Extender over Northern California and Oregon, Dec. 12, 2023.
The reverse refuel is a proof of concept, designed to maintain readiness in emergency situations to prevent loss of a tanker aircraft.
“By using a C-5 as a huge floating gas station, it allows more tankers to be positioned for offloading to fighter or mobility aircraft, versus having to use one tanker to refuel another, which takes away a tanker asset from the mission,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Wilson, 22nd AS chief of standards and evaluations and C-5M evaluator pilot.
“This allows more tanker aircraft in the theatre and extends their range or orbit time.”
According to Wilson, this was the first time the C-5M was used like this since its initial testing and certification. By conducting tests on this procedure, the aircrew successfully gathered data points that can be utilised in the future to enhance the range and capabilities of a tanker aircraft.
“By doing reverse air refueling, the aircraft is getting lighter at a quicker rate than if you were just flying normally, so the aircraft flies a little different,” said Wilson.
“The real difference is when it comes to the flight engineers.”
An in-flight refuel normally consists of a KC-10 or KC-46A Pegasus delivering fuel to another aircraft. In this exercise, the C-5M aircrew reversed the process with the help of a KC-10. The C-5M offloaded 23,500 pounds of fuel in approximately thirty minutes to the KC-10.