The Evolution Of Refueling Tanker TechnologiesAngus Batey
Refueling an aircraft in flight is a practice with a history almost as long as that of powered flight itself. Although today the technology and the operational processes are the exclusive preserve of military aviation, the first practical uses for midair refueling were in commercial and cargo roles. And many of the milestones achieved of refueling history were chalked up during attempts to set airborne endurance records.
The move from primarily wooden airplanes to metal airframes as well as the development of more efficient and capable engines dramatically increased performance, thereby reducing the need to refuel in the Interwar years. But the new political realities of the Cold War—and the emerging military requirement to hold targets at risk over huge distances—made air-to-air refueling a vital part of modern military aviation operations. There are some, too, who believe it still has a role to play in the evolution of commercial aviation.