F-35B makes first probe-and-drogue refueling test
A short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter has completed the first aerial refueling test using the Navy- and Marine Corps-style probe-and-drogue refueling system.
Thursday's successful mission is the first in a short series of tests that will clear the STOVL F-35B variant for extended-range flights, particularly to its primary test site at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. During Thursday's flight, the F-35B designated BF-2 (the second STOVL flight test aircraft), began a series of tests in which fuel is uploaded into the aircraft at 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 feet, at speeds ranging from 200 to 250 knots. The pilot on the initial F-35B aerial refueling flight was U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Joseph T. "O.D." Bachmann.
Probe-and-drogue refueling employs a flexible hose that trails from the tanker aircraft. The basketlike drogue at the end of the hose connects to the receiving aircraft's probe, which, in the case of the F-35, resides on the right side of the forward fuselage and retracts when not in use. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and the air forces of many other countries use the probe/drogue system, while the U.S. Air Force refuels its aircraft via a rigid flying boom that inserts into a receptacle on the receiving airplane.