Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nervous Indian Oil Corp Refuses To "Hot Refuel" Gripen During MMRCA Evaluation Tests

The Gripen team in India is understood to have tried hard to push for the chance to demonstrate the fighter's "hot refuelling" capability, but was unable to do so after Indian Oil Aviation -- the standard supplier of aviation fuel to the Indian Air Force -- refused to be part of such an exercise. Hot refueling is a process by which a fighter is refuelled (in between sorties) while its engines are still on, thereby cutting down refuelling time by half and turn-around time significantly -- a capacity highly desirable in a combat situation, which basically puts aside the need for a pilot to park the aircraft, power down and exit the cockpit for refuelling to begin.

According to sources, the Gripen team was very keen to demonstrate the hot refuelling capability -- even the IAF had no problems witnessing the demonstration even though it wasn't required as part of the tests -- but the offer was shot down by Indian Oil, which said it had never conducted a hot refueling operation before, and wasn't sure it was equipped to take the risk, despite assurances from Saab that it was standard practice with the Gripen. Hot refueling, it must be said, does have its share of risks.

The incident has, however, had its effect. The IAF is now keen to witness a hot refueling demonstration, and will look favourably upon such a capability in its final evaluation of the MMRCA competition. Also, it has requested Indian Oil Aviation to set about getting itself certified for hot refueling ops for the future. IOC will need to look abroad for any sort of certification. Hot refueling trucks and crews in the US, for example, receive special training and certification from an agency in the USAF command structure.

Courtesy : Shiv Aroor
USAF Photo of Gripen at Nellis AFB, 2008

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