Tornado AAR refuelling pod - why not in RAF service?

#1
what it says on the tin, really....

the Tornado buddy refuelling pod is in service with German and Italian Tornado fleets, and while its obviously no substitute for a proper tanker with eleven billion gallons of four star on board, was it ever considered for the RAF?

if it was considered, but dismissed, what was the reason: no really useful enough? got enough tankers anyway? too much training burden to use it safely? cash?

thirdly, regardless of whether it was considered or not, would it have ever been particularly useful in the RAF service of the Tornado?

cheers.
 
#2
The RAF very occasionally demonstrated a buddy refueling capability with the Bucc...

...and of course (for amusement value only)!

Indeed, soon after the Tornado GR1 entered service with its first operational sqn (IX(B)) in 1982, istr that a demonstration was undertaken of a representative hi-lo-hi sortie from the UK to Cyprus. That included a buddy tanker bracket with a Bucc (@Archimedes may be able to confirm).

However, what's the point? A buddy tanker can only realistically refuel 2 aircraft at most whereas a decent strike package may involve over 20 aircraft once SEAD and Offensive Counter Air 'sweepers' are included. For that, the only solution is a 'proper' tanker.

That's why organic tankers from the carriers are normally only used to top up a small number of assets near to the carrier when the deck is blacked or a pilot is having a bad day and continually missing the wire.

Final point: the RAF are only interested in 5-star! ;)

Regards,
MM
 
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#3
was it ever considered for the RAF?
Yes. There was a plan - which may even have extended to purchase/borrowing - to use some pods from the GAF/Marineflieger during Granby as a UOR.

As I recall, it went no further because thanks to the US (and others, including the RAF) there was almost as much fuel in the sky as underneath Kuwait and having a few TGRs being supported by a TGR with the buddy pod simply took one aircraft away from bombing duties.

The Cyprus sortie rings a bell, but I can't remember the details off the top of my head - there was also a competing plan at about the same time to fly a Bucc to Cyprus using the buddy refuelling capability, with the Bucc crews wanting to show that their aeroplane was better than the new one. The Air Staff told them not to be silly...
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
what it says on the tin, really....

the Tornado buddy refuelling pod is in service with German and Italian Tornado fleets, and while its obviously no substitute for a proper tanker with eleven billion gallons of four star on board, was it ever considered for the RAF?

if it was considered, but dismissed, what was the reason: no really useful enough? got enough tankers anyway? too much training burden to use it safely? cash?

thirdly, regardless of whether it was considered or not, would it have ever been particularly useful in the RAF service of the Tornado?

cheers.
As a slight aside, our Tornadoes had longer legs than the German and Italian ones.
 
#5
google tells me that in 1993 Flight Global reported that 24 refuelling pods from the retiring Victor K2's were to be distributed amongst the Tornado GR1's and to be in service around 1996/7, and that 'a number' of Sergent-Fletcher refuelling pods were procured for the Tornado force in 1990/91 for GW1, but evidently not used....

https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1993/1993 - 2015.PDF

is this news to anyone - obviously it never came off, but did it start, or is this journo/wrong-end-of-stick interface?
 
#6
The Cyprus sortie rings a bell, but I can't remember the details off the top of my head - there was also a competing plan at about the same time to fly a Bucc to Cyprus using the buddy refuelling capability, with the Bucc crews wanting to show that their aeroplane was better than the new one. The Air Staff told them not to be silly...
IIRC To show off the shiny new Tonkas two and two Buccs were tanked partway by Victor then dropped to low level where the Buccs then refueled the Tonkas. In the version I heard the RAF PR person came over all huffy when asked why they couldn't have just used Buccs. MM will be along to correct any errors shortly.
 
#8
Can these fabulous new F-35s refuel each other? Perhaps not as I hear the US Navy is developing some sort of refuelling drone. Wont trouble our decks of course as it needs a catapult to launch.
 
#9
Are they worth having if you don't have much/anything in the way of "full-fat" tankers so you can at least practice it on your own so that, when you are part of a multinational op, you can use allies tankers?
 
#10
google tells me that in 1993 Flight Global reported that 24 refuelling pods from the retiring Victor K2's were to be distributed amongst the Tornado GR1's and to be in service around 1996/7, and that 'a number' of Sergent-Fletcher refuelling pods were procured for the Tornado force in 1990/91 for GW1, but evidently not used....

https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1993/1993 - 2015.PDF

is this news to anyone - obviously it never came off, but did it start, or is this journo/wrong-end-of-stick interface?
If they were distributed, they were never used to my knowledge and certainly not operationally.

Can these fabulous new F-35s refuel each other? Perhaps not as I hear the US Navy is developing some sort of refuelling drone. Wont trouble our decks of course as it needs a catapult to launch.
There are no plans for a buddy system on the F-35; the USN will continue to use the FA-18E/F for that...

...until the MC-25 arrives.

Are they worth having if you don't have much/anything in the way of "full-fat" tankers so you can at least practice it on your own so that, when you are part of a multinational op, you can use allies tankers?
Not really in my view as training can always be accomplished with coalition tankers. Germany is about the only nation i can think of who have a buddy but no ‘proper’ tankers.

Regards,
MM
 

diverman

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
If they were distributed, they were never used to my knowledge and certainly not operationally.



There are no plans for a buddy system on the F-35; the USN will continue to use the FA-18E/F for that...

...until the MC-25 arrives.



Not really in my view as training can always be accomplished with coalition tankers. Germany is about the only nation i can think of who have a buddy but no ‘proper’ tankers.

Regards,
MM
A lot of NTO nations don't have tankers but rely on RAF/USAF/French assets.
 
#13
If they were distributed, they were never used to my knowledge and certainly not operationally.



There are no plans for a buddy system on the F-35; the USN will continue to use the FA-18E/F for that...

...until the MC-25 arrives.



Not really in my view as training can always be accomplished with coalition tankers. Germany is about the only nation i can think of who have a buddy but no ‘proper’ tankers.

Regards,
MM
If Germany did spurge out for tankers would their bombers have the nato prefix Amerika?
 
#14
google tells me that in 1993 Flight Global reported that 24 refuelling pods from the retiring Victor K2's were to be distributed amongst the Tornado GR1's and to be in service around 1996/7, and that 'a number' of Sergent-Fletcher refuelling pods were procured for the Tornado force in 1990/91 for GW1, but evidently not used....

https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1993/1993 - 2015.PDF

is this news to anyone - obviously it never came off, but did it start, or is this journo/wrong-end-of-stick interface?

I was at Marham when the Victors went out of service and was involved in the spares recovery. I don't recall that story. I think any Victor pods that didn't go with the aircraft bought by museums or were scrapped on-site, went to the VC-10/Tristar fleet.

Neither do I recognise the the one about the Sargent-Fletchers. Marham was the reception and dispersal unit for all Tornado kit recovered from GW1, including a container with a flat-pack Tornado ex-Tabuk, and I don't re-call any Sargent-Fletchers. Motorbikes, large TVs, computers, swanky office chairs, very nice dining tables, "educational literature", booze, fags? Yes!! Sargent-Fletchers? No!
 
#15
Having dug into Archi's Aeroplanes Archive...

1. 15 Sargent Fletcher pods were purchased from the Marineflieger in 1990/91 because of concerns that there would be insufficient tanker resources to support the TGR operations. Eight, or possibly nine, twin-stick Tornado GR1s were given the means to carry the buddy refuelling pods, and were held at readiness to deploy at Honington and within RAFG; the lack of tanker support didn't materialise and that was that. Baldbof wouldn't have seen the pods at Marham because the UK effort in this regard was at Honington, but the bulk of the airframes which would've deployed were in Germany. Quite what happened to the pods afterwards isn't clear from the sources I have.

2. The Victor pods were mooted as an addition to the Tornado GR1B force up at Lossie (thus 12 and 617 in the maritime role after the TGR1B replaced the Bucc). This was nothing more than a bid to replicate the use of buddy pods by the Buccaneer force on an 'as required' basis, and without needing to seek tanker support.

To keep the cost of putting this capability onto the GR1B, the pods were to come from retired Victor K2s, but even this cost-saving measure was insufficient to save the plan from the beancounters (and you can understand why in the context of the mid-90s), and the plan never went ahead.
 

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