The Royal Air Force Completes F-35B Tanker Trials a Week Early
During a seven week detachment to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, a Royal Air Force (RAF) A330 Voyager tanker conducted 18 air-to-air refueling (AAR) test trials with an F-35B Lightning II Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF).
According to the ITF, the testing campaign carried out by joint RAF – Pax River ITF test team was completed one week early, demonstrating the team’s efficiency by accomplishing its test plan in 18 flights rather than the scheduled 20 flights.
The trials included day, twilight, and evening plugs between the F-35’s IFR (In-Flight Refueling) probe and the tanker’s hose (indeed RAF’s A330 Voyager tankers are only equipped with the U.S. Navy’s standard "hose and drogue" system).
The test trials generated data for the assessment of the wing pods and the fuselage refueling unit in anticipation of a flight clearance that will support the U.K.’s F-35B Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2018.
The U.K. has 19 RAF and Royal Navy personnel embedded within the F-35 Pax River ITF. Many of these British military participate in the shipboard developmental test (DT) phases for both the F-35B and F-35C.