In a recent proof-of-concept exercise, the U.S. Air Force has explored an innovative approach to bolster its air refueling capabilities, utilizing the mammoth C-5M Super Galaxy as a floating gas station.
An aircrew from the 22nd Airlift Squadron successfully executed a reverse flow air refueling training with a C-5M Super Galaxy and a KC-10 Extender over Northern California and Oregon on December 12, 2023.
The reverse refueling concept is devised to maintain readiness in critical scenarios, preventing potential losses of tanker aircraft. Major Justin Wilson, 22nd AS chief of standards and evaluations, emphasized the significance of this approach. He highlighted that utilizing a C-5 as a substantial refueling platform enables more tankers to be positioned for offloading to fighter or mobility aircraft, thereby extending their range or orbit time without compromising a tanker asset from the mission.
This exercise marked the C-5M’s debut in such a role since its initial testing and certification. Major Wilson stressed the data gathered during this exercise could immensely enhance the range and capabilities of a tanker aircraft in the future.
“The real difference is when it comes to the flight engineers,” noted Wilson. Tech. Sgt. Robin Ogg, 60th Operations Group C-5M Super Galaxy senior evaluator flight engineer, highlighted the precision, teamwork, flexibility, and adaptability showcased during this exercise.
The process involved modifying normal checklists, specifically the flight engineer’s fuel panel configuration, to set the aircraft up for fuel delivery rather than receiving it.
The C-5M offloaded an impressive 23,500 pounds of fuel to the KC-10 in roughly thirty minutes.