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Misawa unveils new refueling system

U.S Air Force Airman 1st Class David Works, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, hooks up a fuel hose to the newly installed Type III hydrant system at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Misawa hosted a ceremony recognizing the installation of the new system, which feeds fuel to aircraft from an underground tank. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn/Released)

U.S Air Force Airman 1st Class David Works, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, hooks up a fuel hose to the newly installed Type III hydrant system at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Misawa hosted a ceremony recognizing the installation of the new system, which feeds fuel to aircraft from an underground tank. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn/Released)

An R-12 fuel servicing truck approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to conduct aircraft refueling at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. The R-12 vehicles hook up to a newly installed Type III hydrant system and feeds fuel from underground tanks straight into the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn)

An R-12 fuel servicing truck approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to conduct aircraft refueling at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. The R-12 vehicles hook up to a newly installed Type III hydrant system and feeds fuel from underground tanks straight into the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Works, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, carries a fuel hose from an R-12 fuel servicing truck to a KC-135 Stratotanker at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Misawa celebrated the installation of a Type III hydrant fuel system during a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier in the day before refueling multiple aircraft with the new system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Works, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, carries a fuel hose from an R-12 fuel servicing truck to a KC-135 Stratotanker at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Misawa celebrated the installation of a Type III hydrant fuel system during a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier in the day before refueling multiple aircraft with the new system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, addresses attendees of a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Type III Hydrant System at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Angelella saw the project come full circle, from the time he approved it during his time as the 35th Fighter Wing commander from 2005-2007, to its completion in February 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, addresses attendees of a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Type III Hydrant System at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. Angelella saw the project come full circle, from the time he approved it during his time as the 35th Fighter Wing commander from 2005-2007, to its completion in February 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, conducts a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Type III Hydrant System alongside base leadership at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. The hydrant system was constructed to allow Misawa the capability to host a larger fleet of aircraft more efficiently. This system was completed after a two-year process from planning to completion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Patrick Ciccarone/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, conducts a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Type III Hydrant System alongside base leadership at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2015. The hydrant system was constructed to allow Misawa the capability to host a larger fleet of aircraft more efficiently. This system was completed after a two-year process from planning to completion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Patrick Ciccarone/Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- After a two-year process, the installation of a Type III hydrant system was officially recognized during a ribbon cutting ceremony here May 11.

The system upgrade allows R-12 fuel servicing vehicles to refuel aircraft at Misawa via an underground constant pressure fuel system that transfers fuel directly from an underground tank to the aircraft -- a massive improvement from the previous system.

Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, conducted the ribbon cutting ceremony alongside base leadership to unveil the new system.

Before the construction of the Type III hydrant system was completed, the aircraft refueling process here involved driving four to six R-11 fuel servicing vehicles back and forth from fuel tanks to the aircraft. It was time consuming and largely inefficient for operational demands.

"The R-11s can only issue so much fuel before they have to be disconnected and replaced with another vehicle," said Staff Sgt. Derek Schmidt, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron field hydrant supervisor.

Since only a handful of R-11 trucks are kept on base, Misawa's ability to refuel aircraft was limited by the number of trucks and the time needed to drive back and forth to refill them. For 70 years, this was the only way Misawa refueled aircraft.

The system, which was previously approved by Angelella during his time as the 35th Fighter Wing commander from 2005-2007, was first used in February 2015. Angelella was able to see it come into fruition in front of a crowd of Airmen involved with the hydrant system.

Compared to an R-11, the R-12s can continually fill an aircraft without stopping, said Schmidt.

Comparable to pumps at a gas station, hydrants were placed at strategic parking stations on the flight line, bypassing the need to ferry the fuel in trucks. Because of the efficiency created by this system, Misawa is now able to serve as a high-volume and high-speed pit stop for transport aircraft moving people and cargo through the Pacific theater.

"We're now able to support heavier aircraft so they don't have to fly to other bases," Schmidt added.

Additionally, the new system saves both time and manpower because it only requires one Airman to refuel aircraft in almost one-third of the time, whereas the previous system required up to four Airmen and took up to four hours to refuel.

"Despite personnel and budget cuts, we'll still be able to refuel five to seven big airplanes with half the people and probably half the time," said Angelella. "The money and efficiency to be able to do our contingency missions will really pay off."