This photo was taken from the boom operator’s station on a KC-135 at Red Flag in 2010. Air-to-air refueling (AAR) is a key aspect of air dominance and is practiced on a regular basis by fighter and cargo aircraft. By minimizing fuel limitations, fighters are better able to provide extended defensive coverage, push further into enemy territory for a strike, and increase availability for airborne taskings.
Air refueling requires the aircraft receiving fuel to fly a precise position in order to maintain a connection to the refueling boom (or drogue basket if required) of the tanker. Pilots can follow director lights located on the belly of the tanker to correct forward/aft or up/down position.
AAR can be done in the day or at night in clear weather or in IMC. A night refueling in the weather can make for some interesting stories!