Air Weapons: In-Flight Rearming

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July 31, 2006: The U.S. Air Force is developing an in-flight rearming system. In-flight refueling has been around for over 60 years. An in-flight rearming system has been developed that can move bombs and missiles, via a boom, from the rear of a supply aircraft (like a C-17) to the hard points on aircraft wings, where a precision alignment and movement system would attach the weapon. The air force developed this system, and filed a patent application for it, because the U.S. may find itself fighting in areas where there are no friendly countries providing landing and rearming capabilities. In this case, warplanes, including UAVs, could be refueled and rearmed near combat zones, and kept in action for extended periods. Some UAVs can stay in the air for over 48 hours per flight. Piloted aircraft are limited by the physical endurance of their pilots.
As a practical matter, the combat aircraft most in demand are the heavy bombers like B-52, B-1s and B-2s. These can fly from U.S. bases to anywhere in the world, and stay in the air for over 24 hours via refueling, and the ability of crew members to take naps. The heavy bombers can carry over a hundred bombs each.

 


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