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IL-78 'babies' make US pilots eat their words

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posted on Oct, 6 2004 @ 01:09 PM
AMBALA: The big boys of the US Air Force in their KC-10 and KC-135 inflight refuellers initially referred to their Indian counterparts flying the IL-78 tankers as 'babies' during exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder in Alaska. The IL-78 was acquired only last year and the pilots were carrying out aerial refuelling for the first time in international air space. For the Americans, refuelling airborne fighters was not new. They had been doing it for over 30 years.

Naturally, the Indians were seen as greenhorns. But the precision with which the IL-78 pilots satiated thirsty Jaguars, which can carry up to 5.1 tonnes of fuel, during Cope Thunder dispelled all doubts about their capabilities with a healthy dose of reality. The IL-78s refuelled six Jaguars more than 30 times during the 20,000 km roundtrip to Alaska, covered in 18 legs.

The most challenging part for the pilots was topping off the Jaguars flying over the Atlantic Ocean, from the Portuguese air base of Azores Islands to Gander in Canada. Sqn Ldr Arijit Ray, an IL-78 pilot from the Agra-based 'Mars' squadron, told The Times of India that this was complex as there was no option for diversion over the ocean.

During this four-hour flight, the Jaguars piercing the air at a speed of 600 km per hour were refuelled thrice. The Israeli-made IL-78 pods connected with the Jaguar probes in copybook fashion, something which pilots described as the most testing part of air-to-air refuelling. Sqn Ldr DB Singh, also from the 'Mars' squadron, said: "We were introduced to aerial refuelling just last year. But air forces that took part in the exercise have been doing it for decades. Still we were noticed."

The recognition hasn't come without hard work. The IL-78 pilots used to fly from Agra to Ambala daily, from March to June, to practice aerial refuelling.

To further improve their skills, the pilots were stationed at the Ambala air base for three weeks before taking off for Alaska on June 21.

The IL-78, which refuels at the rate of 500 litres per minute, can carry up to 118 tonnes of fuel. The maximum quantity of fuel injected into an airborne Jaguar was about 3.8 tonnes during the flight to Alaska, all in less than eight minutes.

With IL-78 support, combat aircrafts can undertake longer sorties and carry additional offensive payload. Air chief S Krishnaswamy said the IAF would be adding two more IL-78 tankers into its fleet, taking their total number to six. Indian pilots flew in the in-flight US refuellers, KC-10 and KC-135, to get a feel of these airplanes.

The IAF had planned a mid-air refuelling demonstration at Ambala on Tuesday but it had to be called off due to bad weather.

Source :

posted on Oct, 6 2004 @ 01:32 PM
I guess the USAF will one day pay for its complacency.

BTW : thanks to kinglizard

posted on Jan, 9 2005 @ 08:06 AM
Anyone got details and pics of the IL-78 ???

posted on Jan, 9 2005 @ 11:15 AM

Here you go

This platform is used for EAW&C as well, it has a rear firing gun equipted...

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