First experiences with in-flight refueling

My DCS World experiences continue to expand as the third mission of the Eastern Friendship campaign suggested that I go fuel up before proceeding on my CAP mission. Having finally succeeded in putting the refueling probe in the basket, I wanted to talk briefly about this and point everyone towards a helpful video that I used to get this done right.

Return pre-contact


If you’ve never done this before, let me tell you right off the bat that once you declare your intention to refuel, you then need to get REALLY close before you can initiate the fueling process.

I keep radioing the tanker and he kept telling me “Return pre-contact.” Unfortunately you can’t have a full conversation with the DCS AI so I had to consult the forums to see what I was doing wrong. Solution in hand, I proceeded to get close to the tanker. Really close. Make sure that KC-130 is filling a good portion of the sky before you tell them that you’re ready.

And then comes the really tough part. Actually plugging the probe into the basket is damn hard. The aircraft is moving around, the basket is moving around a bit, and generally you need to perform very slight and smooth movements to get this to work.

That’s when I went to YouTube and was rescued by 104th_Maverick whose tutorial on air-to-air refueling in the Hornet is superb. Check out the video below and if you love F/A-18C Hornet action in DCS… Give him a like and a subscribe as his live streams are outstanding.


Armed with new information and after lots of rest, I went back and tackled the mission and things went much more smoothly.

This time I approached the tanker much more smartly closing to an appropriate distance before asking for contact. And then once the basket had been extended, I was able to plug in almost right away. Success!

Even better, I was able to keep the fueling process going for a good long while.


What a feeling of accomplishment today after having so much frustration yesterday trying to do this mission.

The difficulty of performing this maneuver in a flight sim like DCS World makes me really appreciate all of the videos that I’ve seen on-line of jets trying to plug into the basket. There’s one that I saw circulating not too long ago with some RAF F-35s trying to plug into the basket with all kinds of trouble. I appreciate quite a bit more now on how difficult that process can be (even if I am comfortably seated in my office and not in the real thing).

Here’s a F-35 pilot doing a fantastic job of getting this sorted out.

More challenging than landing on an aircraft carrier

Air-to-air refueling may be old hat for DCS World veterans but for me this is still new and something I just learned to do. Its quite the experience and easily the most difficult experience I’ve had with performing a singular function in DCS World or in any flight simulator ever.

Putting the F/A-18C Hornet on an aircraft carrier seems easier to me than performing this little trick move of fueling up in flight.

What an experience!

Now, if I can just get over what happened later when a MiG-29 splashed me with no trouble at all. Still, it’s one better than when I power dove into the side of a mountain…

This…. fellow…. shot me down! Rude!

I have a lot to learn folks!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Dwyer says:

    Well, I did give a go a few times but no success so far. Congratulations to you for making it work. I think I need to work on my VTOL on the Tarawa more than this for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It’s hard!

      VTOL landings on Tarawa come in as a close second. I’ve done it a few times but it wasn’t pretty and I’m sure the virtual crew chief wasn’t happy! 😉


  2. Francesco Kasta says:

    I find AAR to be one of the most fun activities in DCS. The first time I did it in VR I was mind blown (with the benefit that it is also easier in a VR environment thanks to a much better depth perception).

    Lots of practice and it becomes second nature!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Dept perception was definitely a huge part that was missing here. I’m already getting better at it. It’s just very hard at first!

      I’m still not sure about the boom system rather than the hose and drogue. I’ll try that sometime too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Francesco Kasta says:

        The drogue is a walk in the park compared to the boom, as a matter of fact I find the A-10C to be the hardest plane to AAR, you have very little leeway and really need to stay focused (the F-15C might be even trickier since the boom is almost out of your FOV, haven’t tried it yet though).

        Liked by 1 person

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