Kadena breaks barriers with innovative tanker refueling operation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Moses Taylor
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan — Using a new Air Force initiative started on Kadena Air Base, Airmen from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 718th Aircraft Maintenance Unit practiced a more efficient method of refueling KC-135 Stratotankers during sorties.

This operation focused on hot-pit refueling the KC-135s, which in turn, allowed them to stay in the air longer, providing fuel to the fight and minimizing time spent on the ground.

“After an aircraft lands and parks, instead of powering down the engines, the air crew keeps an engine running while the aircraft is being refilled,” said Tech. Sgt. Trey Branch, 18th LRS forward arming and refueling point (FARP) team chief. “This increases our ability to generate sorties and minimize the ground time required to get aircraft airborne again.”

This technique is used to eliminate downtime and increase reliability after an aircraft lands and parks.

When normally refueling a KC-135, it can take roughly two hours, using multiple refueling assets and operators. When hot-pit refueling, Airmen can utilize one fuel hydrant and truck to refuel the tanker in about an hour. This increases refueling efficiency while reducing manpower by 50 percent.

As the Keystone of the Pacific, Kadena Air Base plays a vital part in supporting the Pacific Air Forces’ effort to operationalize concepts designed to become more agile in execution, more strategic in deterrence, and more resilient in airpower capability.

Through conducting innovative concepts such as hot pitting, Kadena Airmen are further strengthening PACAFs ability to generate and sustain combat airpower across the Pacific.

"With an operational area as big as the Indo-Pacific, having hot pit refueling is a real game changer as a part of our whole agile combat employment mission set," said Lt. Col. Ryan Wilson, 909th ARS Commander. "It can reduce our aircraft generation time by as much as 68% and dramatically increases our flexibility to rapidly refuel and re-assign tankers as missions evolve throughout the day. We're excited to be employing and refining this technique to ensure we are postured to enable missions that protect our allies and partners, while ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific."