Pumping gas never looked so good. Here’s an awesome photo from Lockheed Martin showing four F-35s sipping fuel from a KC-130j tanker plane. It captures the entire view, from below and to the side to up front and up close. Seeing fighter jets refuel in the air will probably never get old to me, especially when it looks like this.
Lockheed Martin explains a bit on how pilots manage to refuel:
In the case of the F-35, it’s usually either a point somewhere over the middle of the U.S., when the aircraft are flying cross-country for a base transfer, or somewhere near one of the many training bases. Once the F-35 pilot locates the tanker, they make contact with the pilot and initiate intercept. The flight lead will join closest to the tanker while the wingmen line up in an echelon formation. Next, while the planes are in what is called “pre-contact,” the fighter pilot will adjust mission systems to ensure their radar isn’t interfering with the tanker. In legacy fighters, this involves pushing a few buttons and turning a few knobs. But in the F-35, explains F-35 Contract Instructor Pilot Oscar “Speedy” Alvarez, “it’s simply a matter of selecting the “pre-contact” option selection button (OSB) on the cockpit’s touchscreen, which puts the radar into standby mode.”