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Tanker Rendezvous:
Frequently, it will be necessary for the fighter to rendezvous on an airborne tanker and take
on fuel to complete a fighter mission. The available tanker may be a professional "gas station"
such as the KC-130, KC-10, or the dreaded KC-135. During Carrier Ops, however, the tanker
may be an organic asset equipped with "buddy" stores such as an S-3. As tanker intercepts often
involve several aircraft that are in close formation, low on fuel, and possibly in IMC conditions,
care should be taken to make the rendezvous direct, quick, and without extreme maneuvering, if
possible. During the Advanced Stage, the student will execute a rendezvous on one of two types
of tanker patterns. These have been generically termed an "Air Force" or a "Navy" tanker
pattern, though either may apply to all services.
Air Force Tanker Pattern: This will be a racetrack pattern with constant-heading legs and
20 degree AOB turns. Leg lengths will normally be 10 nm long using a geographical point as a
reference (i.e. TACAN, LAT/LONG, etc.), although timed 2 minute legs are possible.
Navy Tanker Pattern: This will normally be a constant 20 degree AOB turn orbit
simulating a tanker holding above the carrier. The diameter of this orbit is 5-7 nm and the
fighter should rendezvous by entering the orbit's boundary and joining from the inside of the
circle, if possible. Once inside the orbit, the fighter will use "lead" geometry to close on the
The goal for either pattern is to rendezvous 1 nm (or less) in trail of the tanker and then
maneuver to either a starboard or port observation point abeam the tanker at close range. Some
considerations for a tanker rendezvous are listed below:
1. Rarely will the intercept proceed like a "normal" bogey intercept, as the tanker will often
be turning in front of the fighter.
2. The fighter, after receiving the tanker's track information, should mentally or physically
draw the spatial relationship between the fighter and the tanker's pattern.
3. At long range (outside 20 nm), the fighter can simply keep the tanker on or near the nose
as the tanker pattern is anchored in space.
4. The fighter must predict where, in the pattern, the rendezvous will take place, as
this will dictate how to proceed with the intercept.
5. At around 15 nm, with the spatial picture known, the fighter may need to maneuver on an
"Air Force" tanker to conduct the intercept outside of the racetrack.
6. No later than 10 nm, the fighter should have a refined prediction of the rendezvous' locale
and should ensure the radar information is confirming the predicted intercept geometry.
7. The fighter may find the intercept geometry would be greatly simplified if the tanker
would turn earlier or later than the established track. The fighter is certainly allowed to ask the
tanker for an early turn, for example, and the request will sometimes be granted.
8. Fighter communication with the tanker varies between services and even between
tankers. Navy tanker runs will be comm-out. A common frequency will be monitored, but

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