The Swedish Defense Materiel Agency, FMV, together with the German Air Force, is conducting in-flight refueling tests with Swedish Air Force JAS-39 C/D Gripen fighters from the German Air Force's A400M tanker aircraft. The purpose is to validate the air refueling function by performing a flight test with connections and refueling in the air.
“So far, the campaign has worked very well, and above all, the cooperation with the German Air Force has been characterized by a great openness and positive spirit,” says FMV’s Joakim Hamilton.
The air refueling tests take place at F21 in Luleå and are carried out on behalf of the Armed Forces.
“The Airbus A400M is Germany's new aircraft, it can both transport cargo and refuel other aircraft, which makes it very versatile. For a long time, we have had a limited air refueling capacity in Europe, so in this case the Germans would like to show that they can contribute to reducing the need for American air refueling aircraft.
“The A-400M aircraft is also in service in France and the United Kingdom, which creates a standard and increases accessibility in Europe, so from that point of view it is an interesting aircraft,” says Joakim Hamilton.
During the trial period, the German tanker aircraft is based on F21, together with four JAS 39 C / D from FMV Test and Evaluation.
“What is fun is that the Germans have been driving in their contacts with us and would like to do these tests. They do not want their fleet thought of useless. We both think this is important and we have found good forms of cooperation.”
In previous air refueling tests against other tanker aircraft, FMV has paid for the entire certification, “But now we have agreed that each country bears its own costs.”
Being able to refuel in the air allows great improvements in how much and for how long the aircraft can be used for various missions.
“It increases accessibility, as tasks can be performed with fewer planes than would be needed if the planes were forced to land at an airport and land to refuel.”
But the tests take time, cost money and must be completed before the need arises.
“The need becomes clearer if it is a resource that is used every day. But we want to be at the forefront and be prepared, so that we can refuel if needed in future assignments,” says Joakim Hamilton.
Air refueling tests require preparation. First on paper, where it is assessed whether the equipment fits together and whether the plane can fly at the same altitude and at the same speed. Then connect the equipment on the ground.
“When it is ready, flight tests are performed to see if the systems work together or if there are deficiencies that need to be rectified.”
During the two weeks that the tests take place on F21 in Luleå, a total of seven flights will be carried out.
“Refueling in the air is a relatively difficult task that requires regular training. This time we will also try to refuel in the dark, which we have not done so often. If it is difficult to refuel during the day, it is even more difficult to refuel in the dark, which requires experience and concentration.”
When the tests are ready, the legal part follows, where you both sign an agreement to buy services from each other, and agree on things such as how to talk on the radio and what level of education those who carry out the refueling should have.
As the Airbus A400M is available in European NATO countries, the validation is also of interest to more countries using JAS 39 / CD.
“In our approval, we also get with our export customers, Hungary and the Czech Republic. They are involved and finance it all through our support agreements. Getting everyone on a board saves a lot of time and money,” says Joakim Hamilton.