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The iconic carrier-based Super Hornets of the US Navy are burning through their service life faster than anticipated – and it’s technically because of aerial refueling.
See, many modern military aircraft are capable of refueling mid-air. During carrier-based operations, however, the F/A-18 Super Hornet can not only receive fuel mid-air – it can also serve as a tanker for other aircraft.
Its aerial refueling system (ARS) includes an external 1,200 L tank and four external 1,800 L tanks for a total of 29,000 lbs of fuel on the aircraft.
Super Hornets were the only warbirds covering tanker missions during deployments on carriers. As a result, F/A-18 Squadrons flew more sorties every day, reaching their 6,000-hour service life several years earlier than expected.
Luckily for them, the development of carrier-based drone tankers might alleviate this problem in the future.