With AWACS giving an initial bearing and range it only takes a moment to pick out the tanker in his track on the A2A radar at 19-thousand feet.
As soon as I have the tanker in visual range I make my request on the tanker frequency for fuel. He responds by clearing me into the pre-contact position while I cut across his turn and slide into position behind him. I hit SHIFT-R to open the fuel door on the spine of my aircraft and already the tension is starting to mount.
I place my radar in QUIET mode as I approach the tanker and a bit late I also remember to place my MASTER ARM switch to OFF.
As the tanker turns to a southerly heading I close the gap careful and try to concentrate on flying smoothly with very tiny adjustments. I find the best refueling view is the “one click up” view from the cockpit, with just the HUD visible in the bottom half of the screen. This helps keep the tanker in sight while giving speed and altitude information through the HUD.
Surprisingly I make contact on my second approach in after slightly overshooting on the initial approach. The boom operator drives the refueling boom into place and the fuel starts to flow while my wingman waits on my wing. I only suffer one disconnect during the refuel, which takes me from nearly 1000 pounds to about 6800 pounds.
When I move off the boom I’m surprised to hear my wingman (Troll 1-2) call the tanker and get cleared on the boom as well! I don’t know if this is a recent addition with FF3, but it adds to the realism of the refueling evolution. I don’t actually see him move onto the boom, but when I call him later he has apparently taken fuel because he reports his fuel as near 4500 pounds. I call him to rejoin and we head back toward the strike area.
Having flown enough F4 missions in the past it is my desire to “bounce the rubble” with my remaining LGB since even though a target can appear destroyed the full destruction of a target cannot be ascertained from a visual bomb damage assessment. I’m also anxious to get rid of the LGB so I can turn my attention to delivering some CBUs on the enemy formations I see swarming south near the target complex!