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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2022

PACAF Completes ACE Innovation Competition

By Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson U.S. Air Force

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii In an effort to continue to strengthen rapid deployment capabilities, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) recently held an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) innovation competition to feature funded projects invented and designed by Airmen across the command.

In the first round, PACAF internally funded five out of 60 projects based upon ACE advancement. The selected projects ranged from secure communications equipment to corrosion control, some even going so far as to speed up refueling times on the flightline.

In the second round, PACAF funded three additional projects using Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Momentum funds. The selected projects dramatically reduced cargo loading times and enabled solar-powered water filtration. These additional funds brought the total investment to more than two million dollars in ACE improvements.

“We were very pleased with the funding support from here at the command to higher headquarters level,” said Maj. Raymond Hill, PACAF Innovation Lead. “Airmen across PACAF are leading the way and innovating the ACE line of effort.”

ACE was developed by PACAF and is now an Air Force-wide initiative. As near peer nations increase their technological capabilities, older U.S. Air Force equipment and technology becomes more vulnerable and obsolete.

“It's very rewarding to see the efforts of our team in developing this solution,” said Master Sgt. Jason Yunker, fuels operations section chief of the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena Air Base. “This encourages and fosters a climate where Airmen are comfortable speaking up and saying they have a good idea.”

Yunker’s team presented an idea that speeds up hot pit refueling times for the KC-135 Stratotanker. According to Yunker, the preexisting process at Kadena had fuel trucks driving up to a running KC-135 and refueling the transfer tanks, which can hold up to 200,000 pounds of fuel. Based upon their plan, with a creative system of connectors, nozzles and a fuel hose, they can now tie in directly to the hydrant fueling system, allowing the aircraft to taxi in and out without having to move refueling equipment.

The new system cuts about 15 minutes from the refueling process and improves safety, giving the aircraft an egress option in case of emergency. Each kit costs approximately $35,000 and the team anticipates going into the testing phase about two months after the equipment is purchased.

ACE is a key operating concept for how the U.S. Air Force will fight in a modern, contested environment. Through programs like the ACE innovation competition, PACAF is leveraging technological improvements from empowered Airmen so they are ready to execute missions quickly and in unpredictable ways in the future.

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