Depending on who you ask, the response to uttering the words “Iron Maiden” bring about very different emotions. Ask any fan of rock music and chances are the reaction is the sign of the horns. Ask any Naval Aviator, however, and the response is almost certainly dread.
The trouble starts seemingly as a result of USAF vs USN rivalry. The Navy, while forever validating its own masculinity, designed its refueling system exactly opposite that of the Air Force. The Navy receiver will have its phallic male end plug into the tanker. Of course, the Air Force is just the inverse, with the tanker plugging into the receiver aircraft.
In the Navy system, each aircraft is equipped with a refueling probe. Department of the Navy tankers are designed from the start to be equipped with a drogue, such as on the KC-130 or the ARS pods on the Super Hornet. The Air Force tankers are fitted with a special drogue receptacle, commonly called “the basket,” specifically to accommodate their Navy customers.
Once the pilot is in the basket, it is pretty easy to top off for both the tanker and receiver. The hose is long, flexible, extendable and retractable while plugged in, and overall very user-friendly. Here’s a Hornet tanking from a KC-10 Extender, which has a nice, long refueling hose that affords the receiver plenty of room to maneuver: