JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Total Force Initiative (TFI) Airmen from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam executed ground refueling between two separate and contrasting airframes, Feb. 25.
Airmen from the active-duty 15th Maintenance Group (MXG) and Hawaii Air National Guard 154th MXG successfully transferred fuel from a C-17 Globemaster III to an F-22 Raptor and provided proof-of-concept evidence that the larger air-transport aircraft could refuel the smaller fighter jet.
“The purpose of doing this is to enable refueling wherever we have (fighter) aircraft that need fuel from (tanker aircraft) that have extra fuel,” said Master Sgt. Brian Pittman, 15th MXG C-17 production superintendent. “It enables fighters to take off faster from remote locations and it leaves a smaller footprint while still enabling us to get our mission done.”
This refueling effort is part of the larger Agile Combat Employment (ACE) initiative. Under the ACE construct, units and aircraft operate utilizing smaller teams of Airmen in locations not normally operated from.
Exercising elements of ACE enables U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support, ensuring Airmen and aircrews are postured to respond across the spectrum of military operations.
“We’ve been laying the groundwork on how to employ ACE concepts across the wings for several months,” Pittman said. “The hub and spoke concept of deploying our aircraft is a top priority to try and figure out how to make it happen at the local level.”
For the exercise, a large hose was attached to the ‘mother’ C-17 which then passed through an external valve system. For safety purposes, a longer refueling hose extended from the valve system to a ‘thirsty’ F-22 Raptor. Teams of Airmen monitored the refueling process.
According to Pittman, refueling operations such as this are meant to extend combat capabilities while keeping logistical and refueling operations at a distance.
“It allows fighters to go deeper in the fight, faster, without potentially jeopardizing the safety of the refuelers,” said Pittman. “By having multiple ways of getting our basic tasks done, we are strengthening our ability to deliver agile combat capabilities throughout a theater.”
Hawaii Air National Guard and active-duty Airmen who comprise Team Hickam work side-by-side to conduct aircraft maintenance and operations on a daily basis. This TFI construct allows for close collaboration and integration between guard, active-duty, and reserve forces and makes events such as this possible.