Watch this close-call during an air refueling operation
It seems almost routine in some DOD videos, but aerial refueling is a very dangerous process where a lot of things can go very wrong. It's really not very surprising that stuff can go wrong, when you think about what that procedure entails.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher E. Quail)
What a mid-air refueling involves, for all intents and purposes, is joining two fast-moving aircraft together to pass the fuel from the tanker to the receiving plane. When it goes well, aerial refueling helps extend the reach of combat planes. It can also save an air crew when their plane has a problem.
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War.
However, the fact remains that when you are passing jet fuel from a tanker to a combat plane, it gets tricky. In 1966, a B-52 and a KC-135 tanker collided over Palomares, Spain during a flight carried out as part of Operation Chrome Dome. In 1959, another B-52/KC-135 crash took place over Kentucky.
"Just a little bit closer..." (U.S. Air Force photo)
Aerial refueling is accomplished in one of two ways: The refueling boom that is primarily used by the United States Air Force due to its ability to rapidly refuel bombers, or the probe-and-drogue method, used by most other countries around the world, as well as the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Air Force also uses the probe-and-drogue method to refuel helicopters and the V-22 Osprey.
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)
In the video below, the probe-and-drogue method is involved in most of the near-accidents, but you will see a close call between an E-3 Sentry and a United States Air Force tanker. The video goes on to show the aerial refueling when it goes right. Among the planes you will see are F-14 Tomcats and the B-2 Spirit.