The Air Force’s tanker fleet has logged hours transferring fuel, transporting troops and serving as flying ambulances. If the new concept of the US Air Force’s becomes real, they will help during combat.
US Air Force, Air Mobility Command leaders are exploring whether aerial refuelling aircraft could become a communications node in the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).
ABMS is considered as the foundational technology to connect its air, space and cyber assets with platforms from the other military services — a concept the Air Force interchangeably calls multi-domain command and control (MDC2) or joint all domain control (JADC2). The service conducted its first test of the Advanced Battle Management System in December, which linked Air Force and Navy fighters, a naval destroyer, and an Army unit.
Tankers are considered to be used as communications nodes for two reasons; Aerial refuelling planes are typically large, wide-body aircraft that have enough excess space and power to host new communication systems. During combat, they are located near contested airspace, close enough for fighters and other airborne assets to refuel as needed before returning to battle.
Russian bombers however similar mission during operations. The attackers have the same wide-body and energy source but are used for electronic warfare. The bombers attack opponents with weapons and electronic warfare capacity.