Tuesday, June 8, 2010

F-16 Refueling Probe Developed

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Jun 08 , 2010 , p. 10
Neelam Mathews

NEW DELHI — Following two years of joint development, Indian defense manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), Lockheed Martin and Cobham have developed an F-16 refueling probe.

The probe’s prototype will be demonstrated and showcased at the Farnborough Air Show.

“We will market [it] and HAL will [produce and] sell to customers,” Lockheed Martin India chief Roger Rose told Aerospace DAILY.

HAL had requested the refueling probe be developed for the Indian air force’s Medium Multi Range Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program, to fulfill India’s requirement that the MMRCA be able to use drogue-equipped aerial tankers.

Many global customers need a similar capability, Rose says.

The F-16 does not have a probe since it has a boom refueling system, except for the United Arab Emirates’ version. HAL is expected to sell the product to other vendors even if the F-16 is not chosen for the MMRCA. Lockheed Martin could use the probe as part of offset banking for its six C-130Js on order with India.

HAL has developed the probe because all Indian fighters — which are mostly Russian — are fitted with the probe-and-drogue system.

In the boom system, where the tanker hooks to the receiver, the rate of fuel transfer is much faster.

This has led many to question the logic of India’s request for proposals (RFP) for tankers that focuses on the probe.

“With aircraft such as the P-8I, and the C-17 on order, it makes logical sense for the [defense ministry] to ask for a boom on the center line station and two probes on the wingtips in the RFP expected to come out soon on tankers.

This will bring in a commonality of equipment,” an Indian air force official says.

The HAL solution houses a refueling probe in one of the aircraft’s conformal fuel tanks.

It will be available for installation on any F-16 with conformal fuel tanks, such as Block 50/52 and Block 60 variants.

“This is a technical joint venture between Lockheed Martin, HAL and Cobham. At the moment, the probe has been developed principally for India’s MMRCA requirements … the [memorandum of understanding will] share information ... for design, development and integration,” says Lee Griffiths, director of India Cobham.

Cobham’s Conformal Air Refueling Tanker/System consists of an extendable/retractable probe installed in the right-hand conformal fuel tank on the F-16, which provides options to be air refueled using a probe-and-drogue system or the conventional boom system.

The production model will be available in 2012 for new aircraft or in kit form to retrofit Block 50/52 aircraft, the Cobham website says.

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