Aerial Refueling

SDI has a history of supporting the US Navy in aerial refueling modeling, simulation, design, analysis and testing since 2009. 
Our aerial refueling involvement has included probe design modifications, hose simulation and design optimization and component analysis, including engagement mechanism, drum and reeling mechanism and the MA-3 fuel valve. 
The company is currently developing new design options for a modern, structurally optimized hose that will also improve stowage capacity to allow for longer hoses or lower weight refueling pods.


Why Work With SDI 

  • Modeling, simulation, analysis, design and testing expertise in AR hose and drogue systems including:

    • Probe

    • Hose

    • Drogue

    • Reeling mechanism

    • Engagement mechanism

    • Fuel valve

  • Proprietary AR software, ARES, provides realistic hose whip simulation and prediction and accurate prediction of loads on refueling hose, hose reel, drogue and probe during normal operation and failure cases.

Fun Presentation

Our Software Solution

ARES software logo

SDI Engineering has developed an aerial refueling modeling and simulation tool using multi-body dynamics methods in MATLAB, SimuLink and Simscape Multibody.   

ARES can be used in the detailed analysis of:

  • Aerial refueling operations for new technologies

  • Incident investigations

  • Evaluations of flight control or maneuver strategies

  • Probe loads predictive analysis for design, flight testing, and certification

This development continues under a contract sponsored by NAVAIR in order to better understand the dynamics of the hose and drogue, reeling mechanism, probe, and the resulting loads during aerial refueling operations.


  • Lumped-parameter models of the hose, drogue and probe allow simulation of structural behavior including temperature dependent non-linear stiffness and damping

  • Structural models can be modified to simulate refueling events using flying boom and boom-to-drogue adapters

  • Hose aerodynamic model included to capture aeroelastic behavior during hose whip events

  • Hydraulic reeling mechanism model allows regulation of hose tension during aerial refueling

  • Probe-drogue engagement model allows simulation of all phases of aerial refueling

Aerial Refueling Flight Test vs. Simulation Videos

Flight Test Demonstration

  • Test conducted by U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command

  • Reciver aircraft: F/A-18

  • Tanker aircraft: KDC-10

Simscape Simulation

  • 5 DOF hose model

  • 3D aerodynamics

  • 3 DOF F/A 18 Probe model

  • Reduced order engagement contact modeling

Airplane Wing

Together We Build the Aerospace Industry of Tomorrow