Airmen from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar performed a validation and verification of the first hot refueling of a KC-135 Stratotanker in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) on Sept. 21, 2020.
The certification, which involved members from the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, established the ability to refuel a KC-135 with one or more engines running at Al Udeid.
According to Lt. Col. Frederick Jackson, 379th EAMXS commander, having this ability at Al Udeid directly supports the wing’s resilience.
“Hot refueling KC-135s puts agility at the forefront,” he said. “KC-135s can now land at Al Udeid without shutting off their engines, regenerate the aircraft as long as there is fuel on location, and then reliably and quickly take back off to fulfill another mission.”
During a hot refuel, maintainers will usher in an aircraft that has just completed a mission, conduct an inspection, coordinate with the aircrew and then conduct refueling. Once refueled, the aircraft is marshalled and relaunched to immediately conduct their next mission.
In order to conduct the certification and be implemented, a three-phase training program was developed, which included familiarization, hands-on, and demonstration and certification.
“The team came together, identified a warfighter requirement, and developed a plan to get these procedures through the system. In what could have easily taken one-year … we did it in 60 days,” Jackson said. “We did this through clearly articulating a requirement, developing draft procedures, sticking to timelines, working weekends and through COVID-19 both at [Al Udeid] and stateside.
Lt. Col. Isaiah Oppelaar, 340th EARS commander, said that developing the ability for hot refueling enables not only his KC-135 squadron to quickly return to mission, but others within the AOR.
“[Hot refueling] provides the ability to recover and turn the KC-135 to another mission without depowering the aircraft or losing the source of bleed air required to restart the engines,” he said. “[It] provides increased flexibility and combat capability from the same number of aircraft by reducing the time required to turn the aircraft to another mission.”
Jackson also stated that this certification was a historic milestone for Al Udeid and the U.S. Air Force.
“The first time in history,” he said. “It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this team. Watching maintenance, operations, logistics and engineering smiling and fist bumping, once the hot refuel was completed safely was one of the highlights of my career.”
This is the second hot refueling training conducted at Al Udeid. In August 2020, the 379th and 332nd AEWs conducted a hot-pit training and aircraft arresting system certification with F-15E Strike Eagles to enhance the ability to support hot refueling for fighters.