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Inflight Refuelling In WW2?  
User currently offlinePMN1 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2007, 78 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 3 months 6 days ago) and read 2894 times:

Inflight refuelling was tested, successfully from what i've read, pre-1939..

Has anyone come across anything to suggest why it wasn't at least tested in WW2 to try to close the Atlantic Gap before the CVE building effort came fully on line and to supplement it after.

[Edited 2007-06-20 19:28:35]

12 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (7 years 3 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2846 times:

By no means an expert on this but I've just read "Vulcan 607" by Rowland White and that has some info on the development of the hose/drogue system used by the RAF. This was developed by Alan Cobham's Flight Refuelling Limited which did use it to run a trans-atlantic mail service prior to WW2. The book seems to suggest the boom system used by the USAF was developed by Boeing but initially they used Cobham's system - flying a B-50 round the world with it in early 1949. The RAF Tiger Force that was to assist the bombing effort on Japan was to use the equipment but the dropping of the atomic bomb put paid to the idea.

There isn't anything on why it wasn't used to assist in the Battle of the Atlantic when it would seem to have been the answer to the mid-Atlantic gap - possibly testing/adapting etc? By the time it would have been in service the Battle of the Atlantic had largely been won?

Hope this is of some interest.


User currently offlinePMN1 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2007, 78 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 3 months 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2829 times:

I haven't read that book book but there are a few other books and websites which talk about IFR but nothing gives an explanation as to why it wasn't used nor has anyone on any of the other sites I visit been able to suggest a reason.

It had been trialed before the war, BOAC had actually done it with their flying boats in their battle against PanAm and if you read the British Aircraft Specifications book then quite a lot of the 35 - 39 specs for bombers and patrol aircraft state 'An inflight refueling capability is required'. The strange thing here is for the Shorts Shetland patrol aircraft the spec states 'an inflight refuelling capabilty is NOT required'.

Here is a site that has picture of the hose and grapple method that was going to be used - the receiving aircraft plays out a hook to catch the fuel line that is trailed by the tanker - why the blindingly obvious hose and drogue method wasn't thought up sooner for bombers at least and had to wait until after WW2 is another mystery to me (as is the continued use of hose and grapple by the Soviets for the bombers for quite some time after HDU had been developed in the UK.

http://www.unrealaircraft.com/forever/ww2.php

This is a quote from the site

The British Air Ministry, having supported development of in-flight refuelling first by RAE then by Flight Refuelling Limited before WW.2, retained its interest when war broke out. A study was made in 1939 using a Short Stirling bomber, but no tests were conducted; further proposals over the next couple of years were considered impracticable for large scale operations by Air Staff and interest waned.

I suspect when they talk about large scale operations, they mean bombing missions rather than over the Atlantic as those kind of missions were about as far away from the Air Staff's imagination as it was possible to be. Talking of the Stirling, I'd say it would be a good tanker aircraft for LRMP aircraft as its limited ceiling shouldn't cause too many problems. The impractibilities of large scale use would also presumably be reduced as there are less aircraft in Coastal Command that could be air to air refueled than in Bomber Command.


User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12150 posts, RR: 51
Reply 3, posted (7 years 3 months 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 2611 times:

Developement of aircraft, like the longer ranged B-17G, B-24H, Lancaster Mk. IV, and later the B-29 and B-32 ended the war's need for inflight refueling. It was thought crew training would take a long time, and the accident rate would increase (it was already high).

User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 18
Reply 4, posted (7 years 3 months 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 2606 times:

Quoting PMN1 (Reply 2):
British Aircraft Specifications book then quite a lot of the 35 - 39 specs for bombers and patrol aircraft state 'An inflight refueling capability is required'.

which most likely would have meant an ability to fill the fuel tanks from cans of fuel carried inside the aircraft, which was practiced startin in the 1920s.

Quoting PMN1 (Reply 2):
why the blindingly obvious hose and drogue method wasn't thought up sooner for bombers at least and had to wait until after WW2 is another mystery to me

The idea was likely around, but the implementation, especially the locking mechanisms, weren't available.



I wish I were flying
User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (7 years 3 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2557 times:

Apart from the point made by KC135 another problem with the hose and drogue system was that initially the hose did not stay taut and the drogue had to be fired at it. The problem with the hose was not solved until the late 40's by an engineer called MacGregor (again credit to Rowland White - "Vulcan 607", chapter 10 - someone should go out and buy it now I've quoted it so much!).

User currently offlinePtrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3944 posts, RR: 18
Reply 6, posted (7 years 3 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 2480 times:

Interesting question.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 3):
Developement of aircraft, like the longer ranged B-17G, B-24H, Lancaster Mk. IV, and later the B-29 and B-32 ended the war's need for inflight refueling.

That's not quite true I think. In a global war with so many types of missions, inflight refueling would have been most valuable. For example, even late in the war, the first B-29 missions to Japan had to be flown from poor airfields in China, with all kinds of logistic problems - fuel was flown over the Hump in drums.

I think the technical problems associated with inflight refueling had simply not been solved, despite the experiments that had taken place.

It's perhaps surprising that it wasn't developed more quickly during the war. But with hindsight, it's all too easy to see which ideas were going to be succesful. In 1939, developing ultra-long range aircraft like the B-36 probably seemed a better bet.

Peter Smile



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlinePtrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3944 posts, RR: 18
Reply 7, posted (7 years 3 months 3 days ago) and read 2466 times:

Continuing on this line of thought - while the latest aircraft in WWII didn't always have the required range, even longer-ranger aircraft were just around the corner. Not just super-heavy bombers like the B-36, but, for example, the P2V Neptune which managed 11,000 miles in 1946, or the F-82 Twin Mustang.
The same was true on the civil side - BOAC's inflight refueling experiments were made irrelevant by new flying boats and land aircraft that could simply bridge the Atlantic by themselves.
So, with piston-engined aircraft getting ever more efficient, inflight refueling didn't seem worthwile - it involves a lot of fuss after all. What made inflight refueling necessary was the thirst of the early jets - indeed, I believe the first operational inflight refuelings involved F-84 Thunderjets in Korea.

Peter Smile



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlinePMN1 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2007, 78 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 2 months 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 2341 times:

Quoting Ptrjong (Reply 7):
Not just super-heavy bombers like the B-36, but, for example, the P2V Neptune which managed 11,000 miles in 1946, or the F-82 Twin Mustang.
The same was true on the civil side - BOAC's inflight refueling experiments were made irrelevant by new flying boats and land aircraft that could simply bridge the Atlantic by themselves.

True, but this is later on into WW2, i'm wondering 1940 - 43ish, the equipment existed, it worked well enough for civilian operators to consider risking very expensive passengers and was trialed it seems in Stirlings, B17''s and B24's.

In addition,given this is Coastal Command we are talking about, the number of aircraft involved are not going to be all that great - there were no more than 40 VLR aircraft that would really benefit from it as late as the middle of 43 and as for navigation, well the convoys themselves, whose position will be known by the Admiralty provide a good place for rendezvous - the patrol aircraft will be working within the vicinity of the convoy.


User currently offlineRedFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 4331 posts, RR: 28
Reply 9, posted (7 years 2 months 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2321 times:

Quoting PMN1 (Reply 2):
Here is a site that has picture of the hose and grapple method that was going to be used - the receiving aircraft plays out a hook to catch the fuel line that is trailed by the tanker

Interesting article; thanks for posting! Of minor note: the top picture caption -- you have to click on it -- identifies the receiver aircraft incorrectly by saying it is the B17 when in fact it's the B24. I'm assuming it's the B24 that's the receiver aircraft because the hose is coming out the rear of the B17, which would indicate it is tankering the fuel. Even the article references the B17 as being the tanker aircraft during the tests.



My other home is a Piper Cherokee 180C
User currently offlinePMN1 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2007, 78 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 2 months 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2318 times:

Quoting RedFlyer (Reply 9):
identifies the receiver aircraft incorrectly by saying it is the B17 when in fact it's the B24. I'm assuming it's the B24 that's the receiver aircraft because the hose is coming out the rear of the B17, which would indicate it is tankering the fuel. Even the article references the B17 as being the tanker aircraft during the tests.

Good point though when I first saw it, I assumed the B17 had played out its grapple out of and hauled the fuel line in through the spot normally occupied by the rear gunner so it is possible it is the B17 being the receiving aircraft.


User currently offlinePMN1 From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2007, 78 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 years 2 months 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 2303 times:

Quoting Jwenting (Reply 4):
which most likely would have meant an ability to fill the fuel tanks from cans of fuel carried inside the aircraft, which was practiced startin in the 1920s.

Yes, that was done in the initial tests but it seems to be a bit dodgey for consideration for operational use.

Edit, having said that, trying to refuel an aircraft the size of the Shetland this way would be pointless so it is possible thats what was meant.

Quoting Jwenting (Reply 4):
The idea was likely around, but the implementation, especially the locking mechanisms, weren't available.

Good point on the locking mechanism.

[Edited 2007-06-28 11:38:21]

[Edited 2007-06-28 11:38:49]

User currently offlineDeskflier From Sweden, joined Jan 2007, 537 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (7 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2200 times:

Perhaps the people with the ideas concerning air refuelling were met with the same attitude as the RAF Flight Sergeant who wanted to tow a cargo-glider across the Atlantic. He was constantly denied permission to do so, until one day he concluded his request "...before an American does it, Sir?"


How can anyone not fly, when we live at a time when we can fly?
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