F-35Bs from HMS Queen Elizabeth have refuelled from a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet.

According to the Royal Air Force:

“F-35B Lightnings from 617 Squadron have conducted Air to Air Refuelling from a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet for the first time. The refuelling sortie occurred during exercises with the US Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson in the Pacific region. This was part of interoperability training, and is known as buddy-buddy refuelling.

During the exercise RAF Marham based 617 Squadron also took the opportunity to conduct a joint fly past with US Navy and US Marine Corps jets over the combined fleet of carriers and their escorts.”

What’s going on?

The United Kingdom’s carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces led by Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise joined with U.S. Navy carrier strike groups led by flagships USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson to conduct multiple carrier strike group operations in the Philippine Sea.

The integrated at-sea operations brought together more than 15,000 Sailors across six nations, and demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to work closely with its unmatched network of alliances and partnerships in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

You can read more about their activities here.

British carrier leads international fleet into waters claimed by China

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
77 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
3 days ago

It must be amazing to be involved in something of this scale: not seen since end of the Cold War or maybe Desert Storm?

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago

There’s a very good reason for it!

“The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled,” he said.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-58854081

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

He also said by peaceful means. China has nothing to gain from conflict with Taiwan, let alone America and the west in general.

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

I don’t know but I guess China will invade Taiwan only when it thinks it can be sure of winning. That will include the assumption of heavy US involvement. If anything has changed in their calculations it will be who else would be involved and that is important even if inponderable. We’re a small part of that.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

You may have noticed, the moderators have removed some of the factual posts???

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

And with 10 carriers planned, I wonder how many aircraft they will have available onboard?

“The Chinese navy could reveal its new naval fighter this year, officials said at an air show in southern China.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/09/30/coming-soon-a-new-stealth-fighter-for-chinas-new-aircraft-carrier/

Last edited 3 days ago by Nigel Collins
Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Agree. China may have the military mass now to launch against Taiwan and definitely in a few years time, but if military planners worldwide must have noted, from Overlord to Enduring Freedom, no battle plan survives first contact with an enemy. Taiwan is not an impoverished, 3rd world country. It has a numerous and very well equipped and maintained military. The topography alone of the country will be difficult for an invasion force to cope with. The Chinese officer class have zero experience of being in actual combat and sustaining losses and coping with fast moving tactical events. That’s before… Read more »

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 days ago

Agreed. Some seem to enjoy bigging up the Chinese threat. Now they are certainly spending a lot of money, and have big ambitions. But they lack the depth in quality and experience. And still struggle with the technology we take for granted (a decent fighter engine for a start) And lot’s of scary sounding weapon systems that are totally unproven.

expat
expat
2 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Not exactly, he said if possible but don’t underestimate our resolve. China’s belligerence over Hong Kong has meant there’s very few options to settle this peacefully. Taiwan will have looked on at what’s happened in Hong Kong with horror.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 day ago
Reply to  expat

Yes, but it doesn’t mean imminent invasion. What have they to gain from conflict. Economic ruin, cut off from the rest of the world, and that’s before you get to the really serious stuff

Expat
Expat
1 day ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

China has a made in China policy so everything needs to made in China by 2025. They have also bought a number of allies like Iran, Pakistan and other nations not to mentionthe belt and road initiative. China is planning for this exact scenario.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

“The PLAAF is rapidly catching up to Western air forces across a broad range of capabilities and competencies.” ???

Last edited 2 days ago by Nigel Collins
Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
3 days ago

Hopefully, the RAF F35s will soon get an opportunity to practice refuelling from the Stingray uas.

Jon
Jon
3 days ago

Is that operational already?

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
3 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Not operational yet but has been practicing with F18s and F35cs.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 days ago
Reply to  Jon

They will be.

“Boeing is currently producing the first seven MQ-25 aircraft, as well as two ground test articles, at its St Louis facilities, which will be transported to MidAmerica for flight testing. The MQ-25 programme office, including its core engineering team, will remain in St Louis, the company said.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/boeing-to-build-stingray-production-facility-in-illinois

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
3 days ago

Can the Stingray take off from QE with full fuel payload? It would also require arrestor gear for the landings.

DaveyB
DaveyB
3 days ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

Ordinarily, the Stingray cannot take off from the Queen Elizabeth carriers, even if it used the ramp. With a single smallish output engine, it doesn’t have the power to weight ratio for a short distance take-off. The MOD’s request for information (RFI) on the current state of EMALS is a shot in the right direction. The RFI called for an EMALS “light” version, that could be fitted to a ship from 2025. The weight category they are calling for is to launch an aircraft of up to 24,948kg (55,000lbs) and then recover it using an arrestor system up to 21,319kg… Read more »

Grant
Grant
3 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Wouldn’t V22s – perhaps borrowed from our good friends the USMC – with the refuelling kit be far more sensible then expensive buggering around with unproven technology and refitting our wonderful new and so far trouble free carriers

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 days ago
Reply to  Grant

Possibly, if it’s based on the CMV22B version. This has the larger sponsons to carry more internal fuel. You can currently squeeze three extended range ferry tanks (ERT) in the cabin. They don’t fill up the whole space as you never get them past the ramp. Much like the Chinook’s ERTs the tank’s take up 5/6 of the cabin width. Thereby allowing the crew passage down one side. The tank’s are smaller than a Chinooks possibly carrying no more than 1500kgs of fuel (probably 1200kgs). So if we consider the aircraft can carry 4500kgs in the ERTs and another 1500kgs… Read more »

Grant
Grant
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I think overall I would just prefer it in properly backing what we already have (i.e. buy a decent amount of F35s, get all our weapons on them (and a few more like NSM and Storm Shadow) before they rip up decks on our carriers.

How does that fuel compare to what a Hornet can offload as a buddy? Can the F35 do buddy refuelling (at the loss of Stealth obviously)

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 days ago
Reply to  Grant

When a Super Hornet flies as a tanker it uses five external fuel tanks loaded on to its pylons. The centreline tank is a combined fuel tank and drogue assembly, that houses 1200L of fuel. The remaining four external tanks carry 1800L each giving it a total of 8400L (1L of jet A1 = 0.79kg) therefore 6636kg. The aircraft can also transfer some of its internal fuel over to the receiving aircraft. The F/A18E carries internally some 6667kg of jet A1 making a total of 13,303kg (23,173L) of fuel. However, most of the F18’s internal fuel will not be available,… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Grant

Nope.

The V22 doesn’t have that much payload, costs a fortune to buy and costs a fortune to run.

You’d also need a credible fleet size to make the availability and economics work.

Grant
Grant
2 days ago

I was wondering more if we could borrow them off the USMC at mates rates. And whilst expensive to run they are surely cheaper then ripping up the decks of our carriers to install a bunch of unproven systems….

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Grant

See my comment below.

You **might** see USMC units on board QEC supporting USMC. They are QEC qualified.

However, I don’t think the Osprey AAR refuelling kit was ever fully qualified nor is it a full rate production system.

Johan
Johan
2 days ago

There is a huge issue with prop wash on the V22s and they cannot seem to find a balance.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

And debris ingestion…..

It is far from perfect: hence why investing in it is not a great idea….

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

This is because the disc loading is high, which was a design consent driven by the USN requirement that the aircraft must be able to taxi past the island on a Wasp class LHD. This compromised the prop-rotor length, requiring the rotors to spin faster to develop lift when in the hover. The Bell V280 Valor solves this problem as its a small airframe so the prop-rotor ratio has been sized to provide adequate lift at a slow rotor speed. I am hoping that there will be a Osprey Mk2, designed with the lessons learnt from the Valor, such as… Read more »

Johan
Johan
2 days ago
Reply to  Grant

V22s is a non-starter due to its unit cost for the number we need, was considered by the Navy during the FHP future helo program, but they selected Merlin. and @ the time their service record was not great and didn’t like seawater, service cost £PM is also high, and another nail is it would come under Air Transport so RAF would man. Quintiq has a design scheme to install drone launch and recovery onto the QE Class, without tearing the class apart. BUT the contract with Air Tanker is quite restrictive in terms of the UK Govs Armed forces… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

This is almost certainly the thought process.

My *guess* is that the UAV’s will be launched from converted merchant ships for version #1to gain experience.

I simply don’t see then cutting up a QEC for trials use when you can use a cheap ship instead.

Last edited 2 days ago by Supportive Bloke
DaveyB
DaveyB
2 days ago

I agree. The 2025 proposal date seems awfully soon. Are any of the two ships due a long maintenance period at that time? As that would be the best time to install the system and make modifications to the deck. If they are installing cats and traps, will they be following the earlier CATOBAR design, with a single forward cat and a port waist cat? Clearly they can’t use the forward one, as that is where the ramp is currently, leaving the port side the best option. I don’t think putting it parallel to the ramp on the bow would… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

A Max Hastings mashup on the horizon?

I almost shudder to think what that twit will about being right all along!!

Johan
Johan
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Forget going full Catobar, yes the space is there but none of the design or conversion work was taken past the early design phase, After the failed conversion of Sea Typhoon, QE is due to service in 2023 where she will be brought inline with POWs,

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Navy Lookout covered some of the options available in a thread. Cats, traps and UAS – the Royal Navy considers options for carrier-launched drones “In February this year, the MoD issued a Request for Information (RfI) to industry to assess the state of electromagnetic launch and arrestor technology available for fitting to the aircraft carriers. The requirement is for a system capable of launching an aircraft with all-up weight up to 55,000lbs (24,949Kg). This would be inadequate for launching an armed F-35C or F/A-18 Super Hornet (but would be powerful enough to launch the MQ-25 Stingray air-air refuelling UAS). Most… Read more »

Johan
Johan
2 days ago

there is a design to install a launch rail on the Starboard side of the ski jump. using a rail system using a development catapult system. recovery is not as complicated as they are looking at if the drone is Empty, its actually going to be fairly light, and a simple Arrestor system on the rear of the flight line. all tested and designed ON CAD. all looks a tidy option, just waiting for tech to catch up.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Sounds a little improvised.

I agree the empty drone will be light.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

What if the drone has to re-land when its heavy? You cannot have the drone circling for hours burning and dumping fuel, if its got a fault for example. If there’s a chance of something going wrong, it will in due course. Therefore, there must be a plan for recovering a heavy drone, hence the RFI’s arrestor requirement of 21,319kg (47,000lbs). I am not too sure about putting a catapult running parallel to the ramp. If you look at the ramp design, it is shaped to promote airflow over the lip of the ramp, thereby provide a lift boost to… Read more »

expat
expat
2 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I agree and the refuelling drone will likely double as loyal wing man returning with unspent stores would mean these need to be dumped into the sea, an expensive option.

Jon
Jon
3 hours ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I’m no nothing about ships but Surely if your going to install a catapult get rid of the ramp which would give you more space allowing for bigger refuelling drones which would negate the loss of the ramp

expat
expat
2 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Don’t we have Vixen in the pipe line? Likely a version or same as the RAF Mosquito drone. Another option would be an Aeralis version. I see they’ve added some options to their designs for modular aircraft with a single seat for extra fuel, next logical step is unmanned with even more fuel.

Last edited 2 days ago by expat
George Parker
George Parker
3 days ago

I recall learning about the development of a self contained buddy buddy refuelling system for the old A4 Skyhawk turning it into makeshift low capacity tanker. It even had a wind powered generator to provide electricity to the winch/pipe/basket arrangement.

Just out of interest. Are British F35B’s cleared to carry “buddy stores” to refuel each other?

Chris
Chris
3 days ago
Reply to  George Parker

In theory it’s possible, but nobody has built external buddy tanks for it yet. Cobham is actually the leader in this area, so it would really be appropriate for the RAF/RN to lead the way on it. The USN/USMC just doesn’t have the budget for it at the moment and the hornets already have the ability.

Steve M
Steve M
2 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Don’t think we will have enough airframes available to be able to use/waste flight hours/strike capacity putting buddy stores on 2-3 aircraft ?

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Exactly – why use a precious £100m plane, use airframe hours and flight hours costs, to do something a £10m drone can do?

Steve M
Steve M
2 days ago

fit booms to K3 Voyagers then can trail a K2 out to the CSG into can fly AAR anchor then tank again on way back!! much cheaper option with other benefits ie: E-7 & P-8 could also support CSG 🙂

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Completely different situation.

Yes there is a need for sovereign refuelling of all types in service.

If you go large fixed wing AAR you are back to Black Buck refuelling for the remoter corners of
the globe and zero chance of persistent AAR with CSG.

Drones are the way to go for CSG as USN and USMC are doing. I would suspect that Japan and Italy are going in the same direction.

Johan
Johan
2 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

that is not a cheap option. NAO released the costs from Airbus. and there is a trade-off with the endurance of boom fitted MRRTs, as the retrofit needs structural works.

Steve M
Steve M
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

sounds about right save 10mil now by not having a capability to have to spend 100mil later (example numbers before people shout at me) when decide that oh that would be useful 🙁 SNAFU reigns

expat
expat
2 days ago

And isn’t that Project Vixen which will be an air to air refuelling drone amongst other things?

Johan
Johan
2 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Apart from Cobham is now a US owned company.

farouk
farouk
2 days ago

For the life in me, I can’t understand why the UK hasn’t taken a wee step back in tech and looked at a wee refueling aircraft based on something like the Gannet, designed to take off from the current carriers, which could top up F35s a few hundreds miles out

Johan
Johan
2 days ago
Reply to  farouk

various ideas have been banged around, but current logic is very early in the class life cycle, and expect the UK to follow the American logic of drone tanker, They just have old capabilities that can still be called on, but USMC has a similar need as the RN with there Assult class.

expat
expat
2 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I’d be included to agree but we’re now going down the drone route with the Vixen drone, would make sense to develop that at pace

geoff
geoff
2 days ago

Coming late to this article but please explain something. How can dedicated combat jets carry enough spare fuel to refuel other combat aircraft without compromising their own mission? Its like your car is low on petrol and your mate siphons out a gallon/5 litre to help out? Is this just an urgency/emergency capability?

Steve M
Steve M
2 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Tankers don’t carry weapons, just refuelling pod under fuselage and fuel tanks under wings. they take off refuel strike/cap then return to refuel and repeat. hence the issue USN having with the hornets running out of airframe life quickly

Paul T
Paul T
2 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Those Jet’s tasked with Refuelling won’t be part of the Strike Package is my guess, in effect sacrificing their capability for AAR.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

Sometimes they are part of the strike package. Normally they will be between 2 to 300 miles away from the carrier flying circuits in a predetermined area, waiting for aircraft to come a calling. However, they can also be used to extend the strike packages range. This is where you use tanker aircraft to top up other tanker aircraft, as per the Black Buck missions. The problem here is that it reduces the number of aircraft that be used as the bombers/fighters as more will be required to be rerolled as tankers, especially as there is a finite number of… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 day ago
Reply to  geoff

They are often used top up strike package aircraft after take-off. The F18 will fly a tanker line not far from the carrier, so the launching aircraft don’t need to be completely full of fuel for take-off. They then top up, and head on their merry way. They can also be used to top up anyone having a bad time landing back on deck. Missed bolters use a lot of fuel, as full reheat or max dry is selected on touch down incase the hook misses the wire, so they can safely go around again. Pretty stressful during a black… Read more »

geoff
geoff
1 day ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Thanks for info Robert

geoffi
geoffi
2 days ago

Is it money or snobbery/stubborn stupidity that prevents us going for an F-35B buddy system ?

expat
expat
2 days ago

Perhaps we’ll see Aeralis jump at the idea for UK refuelling.

aeralis1.jpg
Daveyb
Daveyb
1 day ago
Reply to  expat

Unfortunately the Aeralis is too small to be a useful tanker aircraft. It is after all a similar size to the Hawk it is designed to replace. It could be adapted to work as a loyal wingman though.

expat
expat
8 hours ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Isn’t that the point of Aeralis though as a modular airframe you remove the cockpit and fit revised wings to increase lift and house more fuel, go for the leanest engine package. Anyway all mute we need more specs on the centre fuselage as technical aspects like landing gear will be key as to what Aeralis will ultimately be able to offer in payload terms.