As part of the reinforcement of the interoperability between the European armed forces, a Spanish KC-130H "Hercules" aircraft for the first time refueled in flight a French Air Force Caracal helicopter during a test campaign conducted by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) in early October from Istres air base (Bouches-du-Rhone).
The test flights carried out during this campaign made it possible to validate the daytime refueling procedures and to obtain all the necessary data to envisage a new test campaign for night-time refueling.
The KC-130H * was operated by a mixed crew from the CLAEX Spanish Flight Test Center and Spanish Air Force. A DGA flight test engineer was also on board to facilitate coordination. The Caracal crew consisted of test pilots, engineers and test technicians from DGA Flight Tests and from the Military Air Experimentation Center (CEAM).
In-flight refueling of a helicopter is a particularly delicate operation for the pilot, but it is a crucial strategic capability for conducting long-range helicopter operations. France is the only European country that currently has helicopters with an in-flight refueling capability.
(*) Two KC-130H of the Spanish Air Force were recently modified to acquire the ability to refuel helicopters in flight.