Boom operator (US military)

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Boom Operator
United States Air Force Enlisted Aircrew Badge.svg
Issued by United States Air Force
Type Wings
Specialty In-Flight Refueling[1]
A KC-135 boom operator refuels an F-16 during a mission over Iraq.
A KC-10 boom operator refuels an F-16 during a mission over Afghanistan.
The boom pod in a USAF KC-135. The boom operator lies in a prone position while refueling.
The aerial refueling operator's station in a USAF KC-10. The boom operator is seated while refueling.
A boom operator in a USAF KC-135 conducts a preflight inspection in the boom pod prior to a mission in the Middle East.
The challenge coin for a boom operator

In the U.S. Air Force, a boom operator is an aircrew member aboard tanker aircraft who is responsible for safely and effectively refueling other aircraft during flight. The name boom operator implies that one "operates a boom" which in the case of a tanker is a long extendable metal arm that connects two aircraft for fuel transfer. Boom operators also control other air refueling equipment such as the refueling hose when using the probe-and-drogue system. The official Air Force title for boom operators is "In-Flight Refueling Operator" but this title is usually reserved for administrative paperwork such as enlistment contracts and performance reports in reference to the 1A0X1 "In-Flight Refueling" Air Force Specialty Code. The title "Boom Operator" is most commonly used, often informally shortened to "boom."[1][2][3][4]


A boom operator must have a high school diploma or GED with 15 college credits. They must have normal depth perception, cannot be shorter than 64 inches (160 cm) or taller than 77 inches (200 cm), must complete a Single Scope Background Investigation, and complete seven and a half weeks of basic military training, and Airmen's week, and must be between the age of 17 and 39.[4]


All boom operators first receive a month of training in flying tankers at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. After this they spend three weeks in survival training. The boom operators of Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers are trained at Altus Air Force Base for four months.[5]


Boom operators are used in McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extenders and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.[3] The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus is currently being tested for use in refueling.[6] There are currently only three boom operators that are qualified to operate in a KC-46.[7] The future training program for the KC-46 for a boom operator is to be 59 days long, and the training time for a pilot is to be 82 days long.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Department of The Air Force. "AFSC 1A0X1 In-Flight Refueling Career Field Education And Training Plan (CFETP)" (PDF). Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Powers, Rod. "1A0X1 - In-Flight Refueling - Air Force Job Description". The Balance. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Rogoway, Tyler. "Confessions Of A USAF KC-135 'Flying Gas Station' Boom Operator". Foxtrot Alpha. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  4. ^ a b U.S. Air Force. "U.S. Air Force - Career Detail - In-flight Refueling". Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "What it takes to be a boom operator". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "412th Test Wing". Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Boom operators help develop new KC-46 system". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  8. ^ "KC-46 Flight Simulators To Enable Pilots, Boom Operators To Train Together". Defense News. Retrieved 5 January 2017.