Hungarian Air Force Saab Gripen pilots performed air-to-air refueling for the first time last June, flying alongside Swedish pilots and using a US Air Force KC-135 as a tanker aircraft. The sorties were flown over Hungary and also involved a Swedish Air Force two seater Saab Gripen, probably as a result of the crash of a Hungarian two seater last May.
The exercise was held between 21 June and 30 June at Kecskemét airbase in central Hungary. “To get the right mission strength, we need to have air-to-air refueling, that’s why we turned to the US to get some AAR capability and initial training,” said Hungarian air force Brig. Gen. Csebe Ugrik.
Three instructor pilots from the Swedish air force Gripen Operational Testing and Evaluation unit were responsible for the training syllabus, basic training and the Hungarian instructor pilot training. After three days of academics taught by representatives from the two guest air forces involved, the pilots took flight for hands-on familiarization.
The US tanker and crew involved, belonged the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall in the UK.
The tanker and Gripen aircrew flew approximately six hours daily for six days. After days of performing only dry contacts with the tanker, the pilots were confident enough and took fuel for the first time, proving they were ready to perform air refueling safely and correctly.
Hungarian Gripen pilot Lt. Col. Tamas Szvat commented: “Now we could finally start this training and get this very important force multiplier capability for the Hungarian Gripen fleet. We now have a capability the Hungarian air force has never had before.”
Featured image (top): As seen from the tanker. (Image © US Air Force / Senior Airman Kate Thornton)