No F-35 or Bomber: This 1 Simple Thing Might Help America Win a War with China

December 13, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaAmericaChinese-American WarGuamTankersSeaplanes

No F-35 or Bomber: This 1 Simple Thing Might Help America Win a War with China

An innovative solution?


After firing off their weapons, the B-2s needed to top off on fuel. The holding pattern and strike mission cost about 4,000 miles of the B-2’s 6,000-mile range. They needed at least 3,000 more miles to make it to their alternate landing site in Australia. The pilots nervously eyed the fuel tanks as they flew east at four hundred knots. The Pacific’s size was unforgiving.

Moving west to meet them were the eight seaplanes, KBY-10 Catalina IIs, led by Morello. She had left two behind around Guam to help top off the fighters. The B-2 pilots were relieved to get their final vector to the Catalina IIs and moved to their pre-contact refueling points. Each B-2 would take 100,000 pounds total from two tankers, giving the stealth bombers the extra 4,000 mile range to reach Australia with a healthy margin. After refueling, the Catalina IIs would be running low on fuel but had planned for just that eventuality. Steaming west to meet them was one of the Independence-class tenders with two million pounds of fuel onboard.


Once done refueling the B-2s, Morello ordered her aircraft to put down on the water 100 miles away next to the tender. The calm seas made landing easy. Eight seaplanes crowded around the tender, pulling up two at a time to take on fuel. The tender used its crane to hoist one of the aircraft out of the water onto its large repair deck to run routine maintenance. They didn’t know when they’d next get the chance. With the more powerful pumps on the surface ship, each seaplane was totally refueled within twenty minutes. After two hours, the eight seaplanes were again in the air ready to support the next wave of inbound bombers. The seaplane tanker force was working.

David Alman serves in the Air National Guard. In his civilian career, he is an aerospace engineer and management consultant. David is interested in the interaction of technology and strategy, innovation, and national economic power. David holds a BS and MS, both in aerospace engineering, from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a licensed pilot. The opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not express the views or opinions of his employers.

This originally appeared on CIMSEC in 2019.

Image: Reuters.