In-flight refueling is great. In-flight pilot shift is even better. How about in-flight ammunition reloading? Well, it depends on how fast everything can be done. Usually, ammunition is used only in the battlefield. Reloading can be done at the base. It depends on how many in-flight stops you need from your base to the battlefield. Even in-flight pilot shifts may not be necessary. Ideally, a global presence through key positioning of permanent military bases eliminates the need for in-flight refueling completely. Permanent military bases are unsinkable aircraft carriers: cheap, effective and easy to defend.
In-flight refueling is in fact quite vulnerable. Though it does give you the advantage of 5 more minutes of combat time, perfect for newbie pilots, a football tactic can allow a fighter jet to launch a long-range missile to bring down an air carrier in operation, leaving attached fighter jets half refueled. Given all jets on one-way trips now, a backup air carrier must be ready for immediate replacement, or the entire fleet must retreat immediately.
Well, there’s no easy way out in air superiority without a space force. Creativity matters.