The tanker can pump as much as 132,000lb of fuel over a five hour mission

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There’s just the small matter of 4,134 miles separating Beaufort and Marham – most of it Atlantic Ocean and the F-35B has a range of about 1,000 miles.

Hence the need for air-to-air refuelling (aka ‘tanking’)…several times.

So the RAF dispatched one of its Voyager tankers from 10 Squadron at Brize Norton to Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, to practise refuelling manoeuvres by day and night with the jets over the USA’s east coast.

It’s not the first air-to-air refuelling with the F-35Bs… but it is the first crewed entirely by the RAF.

Two RN and two RAF Lightning IIs manouevred into position to take on fuel – inserting the nozzle of their fuel intake (the probe), into the funnel-shaped drogue which delivers that fuel.

The tanker – a modified Airbus 330 airliner – can pump as much as 132,000lb of fuel over a five hour mission, or enough fuel to fill an F-35B’s tank nine times.

The coming few months mark a key period in the rebirth of Britain’s carrier strike force. As well as 617 Sqn debuting at Marham, in the late summer HMS Queen Elizabeth will conduct her first trials with the new aircraft off the east coast of the USA.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

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Air Engineering Technician

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