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India trains fighter pilots in buddy-buddy refuelling as aerial tanker shortage hits home

2nd May 2023 - 05:00 GMT | by Neelam Mathews in Delhi


One possible solution for India's tanker woes would be to lease an Airbus A330 MRTT from a provider such as the UK's AirTanker. (Photo: AirTanker)

Poor serviceability rates of India's Ilyushin Il-78 tanker aircraft mean fighter pilots are training using buddy-buddy refuelling between fast jets.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has released a request for proposals (RfP) to wet-lease an aerial tanker for training purposes as six of its Ilyushin Il-78 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft are too maintenance-intensive with poor serviceability. 

The accelerating need for fast jet pilots to maintain currency validation has left the IAF with little option but to carry out training with buddy refuelling pods from fighter to fighter.

As IAF squadron strength depletes, the MRTTs act as force multipliers. The IAF needs 18, with two failed attempts to acquire six tanker-transports in the past 15 years. 

A six-year-old Comptroller and Auditor General

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Neelam Mathews


Neelam Mathews

Neelam Mathews was born in India and completed her education in London.

She has written for …

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