KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen assigned to the 18th Wing have found another way to increase agile combat employment (ACE) capabilities in the Pacific by conducting hot-pit refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker on March 22, 2022.
This event marks the first time the procedure was conducted in the Pacific Air Forces’ area of responsibility.
“Air refueling in itself is a force multiplier,” said Capt. Trevor Gardner, 909th Air Refueling Squadron instructor pilot. “Hot pit refueling a KC-135 in the Pacific means anywhere a KC-135 can land and refuel serves as a force multiplier and force extender.”
The KC-135 has provided over 60 years of service by refueling a variety of aircraft while in flight. In the air, the Stratotanker can transfer up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, enough to fully refuel 16.5 F-16 Fighting Falcons equipped with two external fuel tanks.
“Air refueling a fighter aircraft allows them to maximize their capabilities over time as a force multiplier and to establish air superiority,” said Capt. John Della Pia, 909th Air Refueling Squadron evaluator and instructor pilot. “Increasing the KC-135’s air refueling capacity by hot-pit refueling further enables the projection of airpower, the reach of air superiority and in doing so increases agile combat employment.”
Hot-pit refueling is a technique used to eliminate downtime and increase reliability. After an aircraft lands and parks; instead of powering down the engines, the aircrew keeps an engine running while the aircraft is refueled.
“It maximizes efficiency in man-hours to generate a sortie,” said Della Pia. “The process enables a single aircrew to fly multiple air refueling sorties in a given duty day.” Strictly with respect to a KC-135 sortie generation, it reduces the timeline by more than 69%.”
Hot-pit refueling also saves maintainer man-hours in-between sorties by not duplicating post-flight, maintenance and preflight inspections. Resulting in one-eighth of the time. Additionally, the procedure decreases the footprint of aerospace ground equipment which allows for austere operations in ACE environments.
“The overall goal is to accelerate change and win,” Della Pia added. “This is a win, but there are many more lines of effort that will continue to be worked tirelessly. We are a force of highly skilled professionals that continue to refine and reinvent our craft.”